1929 Comintern Resolution on Palestine and Arabistan

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This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

From Editor Jane Degras: Documents of the Communist International 1919-1943″; Volume 3; London 1971

EXTRACTS FROM A RESOLUTION OF THE ECCI POLITICAL SECRETARIAT ON THE INSURRECTION MOVEMENT IN ARABISTAN

16 October 1929 Inprekorr, x, 11, P. 258, 3 1 January 1930

[The fighting between Arabs and Jews which broke out at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem on 23 August 1929 provoked a good deal of discussion in the communist press on the nature of the forces involved. The Zionist movement had from the outset been condemned by the Comintern as an agency and tool of British imperialism; it was a counter-revolutionary movement of the Jewish big bourgeoisie run by the financial magnates of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. An article in the Communist International shortly after the outbreak asserted that: ‘The Zionist immigrants . . . turned the country into a suitable strategic base for British imperialism, and … were to serve as lightning-conductors towards which, in case of need, British agents could direct the revolt of the Arab masses against the occupation regime.’ At any sign of revolutionary nationalism British agents provoked massacres and pogroms, thus temporarily paralysing the revolutionary movement. The fighting that broke out in August ‘was undoubtedly organized by British agents, provoked by the Zionist-fascist bourgeoisie, and arranged by the Arab-Mohammedan reaction'; but the movement got out of hand and became a genuine Arab nationalist revolt. The British purpose was to strengthen their position against the penetration of American capital and to frustrate Arab-Jewish mass solidarity. The Arab masses no longer trusted their bourgeois leaders who, corrupted by the money channelled through Zionism, were conciliatory towards imperialism, but their own movement had been captured by Pan-Islamic reaction.

The official Comintern attitude was disputed by some Jewish members of the Palestinian CP, who denied the existence of an Arab revolutionary movement; the workers’ movement was almost entirely Jewish. In an article in Novy Vostok Arbuziam [Averbakh] asserted that the fellaheen and the Beduin masses were waging an active political struggle against British imperialism; they did not, however, submit easily to class political discipline and might therefore become the tools of imperialist agents. ‘The basic question of the revolutionary movement in the Arab East is to use the immense revolutionary energy of the Beduin tribes for the revolutionary class struggle against imperialism, against the native bourgeoisie and feudalists, and to link it with the movement of the impoverished fellaheen and proletariat.’ The Jewish Socialist Party (Poale Zion), including its left wing, had become a national-chauvinist organization defending the plantation owners and colonizers, and the trade unions sacrificed the workers’ interests on the altar of Zionism.

An article by a certain Nadab published four years later in Revoliutsionny Vostok, which argued that, since Zionism was counter-revolutionary, anti-imperialism in Palestine must be directed against the Jewish national minority as being overwhelmingly Zionist, stated that those members of the Palestine CP who insisted that the 1929 events were a pogrom, and not a rebellion, had been expelled.

The League Against Imperialism interpreted the fighting as an anti-imperialist struggle to which the imperialists had given a religious character; the Zionists and social-democrats had prevented a united front of Arab and Jewish workers. The imperialists welcomed the event as a pretext for annexing Palestine to the British Empire. An article in Inprekorr said the Arab Executive now regarded the Zionist leaders not as enemies but as rivals for British favour. An accompanying article (signed J.B.) said the ‘street fight’ which began on 23 August was ‘the signal for a general Arab rising’. The British Government ‘dropped a little oil whenever the fire threatened to go out’ in an attempt to destroy the Arab-Jewish rapprochement of recent years. The communist party was too weak to ‘gain influence on the mass movement which grew from hour to hour and was influenced by blind religious fanaticism’. The Haifa committee of the communist party, claiming that what had happened was a pogrom pure and simple, suppressed the central committee statement which interpreted the events as the work of imperialist stooges, deflecting the anti-imperialist revolt into pogroms. In a letter to the Palestine central committee, the Eastern secretariat of the ECCI spoke of the dangers of opportunism in the party, and of the conciliatory attitude to Poale Zion.

In October 1930 the ECCI again suggested that preparations should be made for the formation of an Arab Communist Federation, to include the parties of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. At the seventh congress of the Palestine Communist Party in December 1930 the Arab and Jewish delegates were equal in number-previously the Arabs had been in a minority; the two chief dangers facing the party were said to be Jewish Zionist chauvinism and Arab bourgeois nationalism; the central committee elected by the congress had an Arab majority. An article in Inprekorr on the congress said prospects were improving because the Jewish workers were turning against their own bourgeoisie while the Arab bourgeoisie were turning away from the nationalist movement. The Pan-Islamic congress held in Jerusalem in the summer of 1931 was described as an attempt to consolidate reaction and mislead the masses; its reactionary character was shown by the resolution it adopted protesting against the oppression of Moslems in the USSR. Early in 1932 a draft programme for the Egyptian CP was published. This described Egypt as a British cotton plantation worked by slave labour, with the monarchy and landowners acting as slavedrivers. All Egyptian parties were subservient to Britain, the Wafd representing bourgeois-landlord-counter-revolutionary-national-reformism’. An article in Inprekorr in May 1932 noted that ‘as a result of the temporary weakness of the labour movement in Egypt, police provocateurs and petty-bourgeois adventurers succeeded in disorganizing the activity of the Egyptian CP, detaching it from the workers, and alienating it from the revolutionary mass struggle’. The seventh congress Materials said that for a time ‘an unprincipled group’ in the Egyptian CP, behind whom the police was hidden, had condemned communist organizations to complete inactivity. At the congress itself a delegate said that because of internal feuds and intrigues, the party had at one time been expelled from the Comintern; in 1931 the ECCI had appointed a new leadership.

Referring to the events of 1929, the Materials noted that there had been strong opposition to the ECCI’s instructions to Arabize the Palestinian CP; these opportunists had been removed and the position was corrected at the seventh congress of the Palestinian Communist Party, but the party was only now (1935) beginning to bolshevize itself, a process inseparable from Arabization.
A footnote to the present resolution states: ‘The resolution is necessarily published in abridged form. In particular, it omits those passages concerning the attitude of the Palestine Communist Party to national-revolutionary trends.’
At the meeting of the LAI Executive in Cologne in January 1929 Heckert (representing the RILU) and Melnichansky (representing the Soviet trade unions) attacked A. J. Cook, a member of the Executive, who protested against outside interference in the League, and against the label of ‘traitor’ attached to union leaders, and said he was not inclined to support a League that was to become a new red international. Cook shortly afterwards resigned from the League. At the JAI congress in Frankfurt in July 1929 there were 260 delegates, 84 of them representing the colonies, although many did not come directly from the colonies themselves. Munzenberg reported that the bourgeois nationalists who had been present at the Brussels congress, such as the KMT, had sold out to imperialism, and were not represented at Frankfurt; there were fewer intellectuals, but more representatives of workers’ and peasants’ organizations. An article on the congress in the Communist International in November said that in all the colonial countries the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie had moved to the right. The ILP and the Indian National Congress had played a treacherous part; Poale Zion was an agent of British imperialism. The left-wing social reformists (such as Maxton and Fimmen) had joined forces with the national reformists (such as Hatta and Gupta) and should have been more thoroughly exposed at the congress. (Maxton was later expelled from the British section of the LAI.) Neither the Indian nor the Indonesian revolutionary movement was represented, and hence there had been serious opportunist errors at the congress, which had failed to expose the left social-democrats, who were ‘the worst enemies of the colonial peoples, the most dangerous enemies of the colonial revolution’. The congress resolution had not said a word about the ‘treachery and perfidy’ of the Indian National Congress. ‘The time has come to raise the question of purging the League of elements which are obviously treacherous.’]

The uprising of the Arab masses in Palestine and the events in Arabistan as a whole have by and large fully confirmed the correctness of the analysis made by the sixth CI congress and the tenth plenum of the sharpening of the struggle between imperialism and the working masses of the colonial countries, of the new surge of the national liberation movement in colonial and semi-colonial countries, of the appraisal of the English ‘Labour’ Government and the transformation of the Second International into a social-fascist, openly social-imperialist International.

The national disunity of the Arabs, the fragmented character of Arabistan, broken up into a number of small countries, the division of Arabistan among the various important countries, the complete absence of political rights for the indigenous population, forcible Zionist colonization, and the use of greater pressure by English and French imperialism on the Arab countries-these are one group of causes of the insurrectionary movement.

A second group of causes of the events in Palestine are the robbery of the Arab fellaheens’ land for the benefit of Zionist colonization (often with the help of Arab large landowners), and of the Arab large landowners and foreign capitalists . . . the greater exploitation of the peasants by higher rents and taxes and by the moneylenders, the relatively rapid growth of a commodity and money economy . . . and the comparatively rapid development of class differentiation among the Beduin tribes.

The maturing of the revolutionary crisis was accelerated by the growth of unemployment … the harvest failure of 1928, the ferment in the Arab countries, the dissolution of the Syrian parliament, the Iraq government crisis … the demonstrations and strikes of workers in Palestine and Syria, the new Anglo-Egyptian treaty … the approaching offensive by spiritually bankrupt Zionism, which has discarded its socialist mask and appears openly as an agency of capitalism (as shown in the decision of the Zurich Zionist congress in July 1929).

THE CHARACTER OF THE MOVEMENT

These are the characteristic features of the movement:

1. The Palestine uprising is occurring at a time of revolutionary ferment in the most important industrial centres of India, of crisis in the Chinese counter-revolution, and of a rising wave in the revolutionary labour movement of the West; it represents the beginning of a rising wave in the revolutionary liberation movement of the Arab countries.

2. The movement extends over the whole of Arabia and has a profoundly national character. It spread extremely quickly to the other Arab countries.

3. The movement is changing rapidly and moving on to a higher level. If, in the first days, the clergy and the feudalists, united in the Mejlis Islam, managed to direct it into the channel of an Arab-Jewish national feud, after that the masses turned spontaneously against the Mufti, against the Mejlis Islam, and against the representatives of the Arab Executive, condemning their treachery and their surrender to imperialism … the movement is changing rapidly from a Zionist-Arab conflict into a national peasant movement, in which the nationalist urban pettybourgeoisie are also taking part. The fellaheen and particularly the Beduin are the most active participants in the insurrection movement.

4. The working class has remained in part passive; in any case it has not acted independently, much less tried to assume hegemony of the movement. A section of the Jewish and Arab workers fell under the influence of ‘their’ bourgeoisie and took part in the national-religious conflict under the hegemony and leadership of ‘their’ bourgeoisie. Nevertheless there were individual cases of heroic manifestations of proletarian class solidarity by Arab and Jewish workers. Thus, notwithstanding the fact that the insurrectionary movement was a response to an Anglo-Zionist provocation, to which Arab reactionaries (feudalists and priesthood) tried to answer with a pogrom, notwithstanding the fact that in its initial stage it came under reactionary leadership, it was still a national liberation movement, an anti-imperialist all-Arab movement, and in the main, by its social composition, a peasant movement.

5. The movement took place at a time when MacDonald’s ‘Labour’ Government was in power in England. The ‘Labour’ Government, with the full support of the Independent Labour Party, came out openly in the role of executioner of the colonial revolution.

6. The movement revealed the growing depth of the contradictions between English and French imperialism in the struggle for influence in the Middle East.

THE CHARACTER AND DRIVING FORCES OF THE REVOLUTION IN ARABISTAN

The general Comintern position in regard to the character and driving forces of the revolution in Palestine and in Arabistan as a whole has stood the test of the revolutionary mass movement and has been confirmed by experience. The main socio-economic content of the revolution is the overthrow of imperialism, the national unification of all Arab countries, the agrarian revolution, and the solution of the national question. It is this which determines the character of the revolution as a bourgeois-democratic revolution in the Leninist sense of the word. The main driving forces of the revolution are the working class and the peasantry. The bourgeois-democratic revolution can be conducted to its conclusion only in revolutionary struggle against the bourgeoisie. Without doubt this bourgeois-democratic revolution will turn into a socialist revolution. But the thesis advanced by some, about the proletarian character of the revolution in the conditions prevailing in Palestine, is [not] only completely out of accordance with the historical reality, and not only reflects the Trotskyist ideology of permanent revolution, but would signify, in the concrete conditions in Palestine, primarily the dictatorship of a small company of Jewish workers over the large masses of the Arab population.

THE ROLE OF THE DIFFERENT CLASSES IN THE MOVEMENT

The Zionist colonizing bourgeoisie and their lackeys played the part of outright agents of English imperialism . .’. . The ‘left’ wing of Zionism, Poale Zion, merged with the Jewish fascists and sided with English imperialism and the Zionist bourgeoisie.

The Arab large landowners, the feudal lords, and the higher ranks of the priesthood, united in the Mejlis Islam, capitulated long ago to English imperialism, and played a treacherous, provocative, counterrevolutionary role.
The All-Arab National Congress, which in the last few years has revealed with a clarity that leaves nothing to be desired its national-reformist character … did not play an independent part in the movement; rather its right wing joined the reactionary camp of the feudals and priests.

The fellaheen and particularly the Beduin were the basic driving forces of the movement. But the peasant movement did not coincide in time with an organized and independent class action by the proletariat in the towns. The peasant movement was unorganized and fragmentary.

The Arab insurrectionary Movement clearly revealed both some positive features and the weaknesses of the Palestine CP.

1. The uprising took the party by surprise; this was because it is composed in the main of Jewish elements; it has no contact with the Arab masses as a whole, and in particular lacks any kind of contact with the peasantry.

The uprising has shown in practice how right the ECCI was in its repeated instructions about the need to Arabize the party. The deficiencies and errors of the Palestine CP, revealed in the course of the uprising, are a result of the party’s failure to steer a bold and determined course towards the Arabization of the party from top to bottom. In the past the party has applied its forces and means incorrectly, and concentrated its work primarily on the Jewish workers, instead of concentrating its maximum forces and means on work among the Arab worker and peasant masses.

The Arabization of the leadership was interpreted as the mechanical inclusion of a few Arab comrades on the central committee. The party did not succeed in creating solid party organizations among Arab workers and in the local Arab trade union organizations. There was a spirit of pessimism and scepticism as to the possibility of successful work among the fellaheen and Beduin, which in some cases led to passive sectarianism, to an underestimation of the revolutionary possibilities in Arabistan, to an exaggeration of the influence of the reactionary bourgeoisie on the Arab masses….

2. Particularly in the first days of the movement, when it was almost exclusively influenced by events in Jerusalem and some other cities, the party failed to notice that the religious national conflict was turning into a general national anti-imperialist peasant action. Consequently the party failed to include in its slogans the questions of the seizure of the land, the formation of revolutionary fellaheen and Beduin committees, the agrarian revolution, and the national unification of all Arab countries, and to conduct agitation around the slogan of an all-Arab workers’ and peasants’ government, failures which can be explained by the right-opportunist vacillations in the party about this question in the past. The party failed to advance the slogan of forming Arab-Jewish workers’ detachments, of arming the workers, of joint demonstrations of Arab and Jewish workers, of a joint general strike…. The exposure of the English ‘Labour’ Government’s assumption of the role of executioner, revolutionary criticism of the Arab and Jewish political parties and organizations, particularly the adherents of Poale Zion and of their attitude during the uprising, was not concrete enough.
At the same time it must be emphasized that the Palestine CP showed itself to be a firmly welded organization of devoted revolutionaries, anxious to fulfil their revolutionary duty in an honourable fashion. In respect to its theoretical level, its devotion to communism, the CP of Palestine certainly stands high. .

THE TASKS OF THE PARTY

The CPP, as well as the CI sections in other Arab countries, must learn the lessons to be drawn from the uprising.

1. The most urgent task of the party is to steer an energetic and bold course towards Arabization of the party from top to bottom. At the same time it must make every effort to establish Arab or joint Arab-Jewish trade unions, and to capture and extend those already in existence….

2. The party must at all costs eradicate the scepticism and passivity on the peasant question which prevail in its ranks…. It must draw up an agrarian programme which pays heed to the partial demands of the fellaheen and Beduin.

3. The party must continue its work among the Jewish workers organized in the Zionist-reformist trade unions, as well as among the unorganized workers. The exposure of Zionism, and particularly of its left wing, as an agency of imperialism, remains as before one of the chief tasks, the concrete lessons of the movement being used to demonstrate this.

4. The party must expose the Mejlis Islam … as a direct agent of English imperialism. No less ruthlessly must it expose the national reformism embodied in the All-Arab Congress…

5. The campaign for an active boycott of the commission appointed to investigate the events, and the organization of the boycott . . . must with the help of other CI sections be placed in the centre of the party’s attention….

8. The lessons of the rising clearly show the need for the closest contact between the communist parties of the various countries of Arabistan and of Egypt. The most appropriate form will be the formation of a federation of communist parties of the Arab countries. The condition for such a federation is the Arabization of the CPS of Palestine and Syria, the consolidation of the CPS of Palestine, Syria, Egypt, etc. Steps to accelerate the Arabization of the Syrian CP must be taken at once, to ensure that the communists in Syria, after overcoming liquidationism and opportunism, finally become independent communist parties.

9. These tasks can be accomplished only on condition that a bold and energetic struggle is waged against the right deviation in the party, which is bound to become stronger under the pressure of white terror and the impact of the temporary defeat of the uprising. The right deviation in the CP of Palestine is expressed in an underestimation of revolutionary possibilities, open or concealed resistance to Arabization of the party, pessimism and passivity in regard to work among the Arab masses, fatalism and passivity on the peasant question, failure to understand the role of Jewish comrades as subsidiary forces, but not as leaders of the Arab movement, exaggeration of the influence of the reactionary bourgeoisie, large landlords, and priesthood on the Arab masses, a conciliatory attitude to opportunist errors, failure to understand the need for courageous and vigorous self-criticism of the mistakes committed by the party, a tendency to emigrate without the permission of the CC, that is, to desert, resistance to the slogan of a workers’ and peasants’ government. The appraisal of the rising as a ‘pogrom’ and concealed resistance to Arabization are manifestations of Zionist and imperialist influence on the communists. The eradication of these attitudes is essential for the further development of the party….

The insurrection movement in Arabistan found a strong international echo. The parties of the Second International and a number of petty-bourgeois pacifists sided with English imperialism and counter-revolutionary Zionism. The ‘left’ social-democrats, above all Maxton, exposed themselves as agents of imperialism. Communists and national revolutionary organizations sided with the Arab uprising.

At the same time it must be noted that in the early stages of the uprising there was vacillation and confusion in some countries (the Jewish section of the CP of the USA) as well as in some communist newspapers (even in the Soviet Union) about the character of the movement. These were rapidly overcome in the C1 sections.

Source

The Mysticism of the Baath Party Ideology

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This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

From: “Our View Of Arab History”; A speech given in 1955 in Aleppo, by Elyas Farah for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party.

Contained in: “Arab Revolutionary Thought in the Face of Current Challenges”; Madrid 1978; pp.281-303.

“The socialist principles of the ancient Arabs, which was called “Moslem socialism,” was composed of “sadaqa” (alms-giving), “zakit” (tithing) and “al-ihsAn” (charity). The objective of Arab socialists today is the total suppression of misery and the exploitation of Man by Man, in such a way that, throughout the width and breadth of the Arab homeland, there is not a single man who needs to be given alms, no one who awakens pity, compassion, commiseration or forbearance. What Arab socialist are aspiring to today is a fair distribution of wealth, the establishment of a vital minimum revenue for every citizen, the nationalization of public services and important means of production, and the guarantee of equality of opportunity for all citizens, without distinction.

Is not this idea of socialism, for which the Arab Socialist Bath Party has militated for a long time, although of the 20th Century, in conformity with the Prophet’s attitude concerning life, the spirit of Islam and Divine Will?

Modern societies turn today to more and more radical solutions to their problems. In their first enthusiasm, the ancient Arabs gave proof of a socialist attitude, ever questing for new schemas and systems as close as possible to the socialist ideal. They disdained everything connected with pure formalism, everything rigid and congealed, or which might endanger in one way or another, evolution towards this ideal.

To resume the differences between our attitude with regard to the past and that of reactionaries, we may state that ours is a scientific and creative one, attached to all that is fundamental and substantial and open to the future. Theirs, on the other hand, is only preoccupied with superficial and secondary matters, and sacrifices both the present and the future (with all their potentialities) to the past. Our attitude is deeply rooted in our authentic history. We preserve its essence and we retain its spirit -the same spirit which, in olden times, impelled revolution and the renewal of existence. It is this same spirit which impels them today on the road to progress.

The attitude of the “Chou’oubiyyine” (anti-Arabs)

As for the anti-Arabs and internationalists (Stalinists), they claim to be the only detainers of scientific, progressive thought, but they wish to sever us totally from our past. In fact, their attitude is an emotional and unreflective reaction to the fanatical, sectarian attitude of conservatives.

Reactionaries want a past, devoid of a present and a future, while pseudo-progressive elements want a future without a past. To those who oppose nationalism and claim that any nationalist ideology is fundamentally reactionary, we ask the following question; “What is progressiveness?” Is it the undoing of all temporal and spatial links? Is it not absurd and contradictory to wish to undo such links, when Man cannot live other than in a clearly-defined temporal and spatial framework? Does being progressive imply that one recognizes no national past? Does it imply the severing of oneself from national reality? Anti-nationalists behave like cosmopolitans who maintain no living contact either with their nation or with their history. The “universalistic and anti-nationalistic” attitude of pseudo-progressive elements proves that they flee in advance of the human realities of the Arab Nation. They neglect the national problem, which is, irrefutably, the key to genuine internationalism. Their progressive attitude is simply a denial and a escape; it is vitiated from the start. Their humanitarianism is bodiless, poverty -stricken, sterile. They remind us of a phrase of Goethe, the famous German philosopher which comes to memory in this connection: “I hear a great deal about humanity, but I see only men”. We can tell them that the peculiar genius of a nation resides in the links it sustains with its past, its present and its future, and that the message which it hears for humanity can only be safeguarded in the same measure that these links are safeguarded. If we sever the past from the present and the future, we take the risk of suffocating our genius and alienating the identity of the nation; we risk deviation, if we lose sight of the principles which can keep us from downfall, from reversals, from unsurmountable contradictions and alienation.

Kant, in his time, called for universal peace, though his own country, Germany, was divided up into innumerable, tiny states. Filled with despair, the Germans lacked confidence in the future. Kant’s appeal for world peace was, in fact, only submission to the fact of -Balkanization- and concealed an entreaty to colonialists. His action, in the last analysis, intoxicated the German nation and diverted it from its primary objectives, freedom and unity. When German national anthems began to awaken vibrations in German hearts, and arouse their national conscience, when revolt began to grumble and hope and confidence in the future filled the hearts of youth, Fichte, in his “Letters to the German Nation”, launched his famous appeal for struggle for the Unification of Germany. In this way, he placed his finger on the knot of the problem. He understood that the path to world peace and the key to any solution of a human nature in Germany required the preliminary resolution of German national problems -to remedy its state of weakness, save it from disunion and withdraw it from foreign domination.

Fichte was a nationalist; he was even the leading philosopher of nationalism. This made him more humanistic than Kant, for he shared in the Nation’s salvation, rather than in its intoxication.

Any man who is unconscious of his historic roots, and devoid of the feeling that he belongs to a human community (composed of many million people, ‘all of whom make up the succeeding generations of the community) and who lacks a feeling of responsibility for the safe-guarding and the perpetuation of a certain heritage, can only be poor in spirit, and his life will be of mediocre and insignificant quality. Nameless, colourless, with no distinctive sign, such a man would resemble rather an object or a number than a human being.

Among those who have denied their appurtenance to the Arab Nation, there are those who, to fill the gap, adopt a foreign culture. To them, we may say that any culture, and form of logic, any theory transposed to our land, without enabling us to draw from it something useful for our cause, naturally adaptable to our existence and our deepest aspirations, anything imported and liable to assimilate and despersonalize us and place our destinies in the hands of others, is, as all other unfounded, artificial solutions, inapplicable to our reality and incapable of finding in us an echo.

Arab nationalism, as expressed in the struggle for unity and the Nation’s freedom, and for the establishment of socialism, is the deepest, most positive and most vibrant aspect of our existence. It is this which gives meaning to our lives. If we are unable to protect it, we shall lose our personality, our very own genius and we shall end up totally dehumanized.

Our national cause is the starting-point of all genuine existence. If this ceases to be the case, deviations will be inevitable for us, and our culture, by becoming foreign to our reality and bearing the stamp of individualism, will become simply a mirror reflecting ideas coming from abroad.

Internationalists (Stalinists) live among us in body only; their souls are elsewhere. They approach our problems with criteria of foreign origin and a spirit which has no relation to our own reality. They have become deeply alienated by exchanging their own feeling, ideas, and souls for feelings, ideas and souls borrowed from elsewhere. Losing sight of the fundamental principles of intellectual activity and action, they have seriously gone astray and, when they find themselves unable to recover their own identity, they saddle themselves with a borrowed personality of an artificial nature.

We can only profit from theories, ideas and experience to which we can adhere, without abandoning our personality. Even if such ideas are the fruit of other nations’ efforts, they can act as a stimulant for us; they can help us to understand our problems, to defend our cause and to transform the reality in which we find ourselves. Only loans that we can control and use knowingly, are capable of adaptation to our national history and of assisting us in our march towards progress. Those who approach the problem of nationalism from the point of view, both exclusive and totalitarian at one and the same time, who look on this phenomenon as part of an inseparable whole – the human cause, in general – are making a big mistake. They consider nationalistic ideology as an obstacle to the progress of humanity, as a danger, liable to play havoc with nations, and even as a fundamentally antihuman phenomenon, and pass judgements on it, coloured by their ideas concerning nationalistic experience in Europe. Such experiences, however, were from the very beginning, made on a basis of grave error and dangerous prejudice. They can, therefore, in no event serve as a criterion or as a point of reference.

When soundly experienced, nationalism is the natural source of and the principle of all permeability to true internationalism. The Arabs know that nationalism is their safest guarantee for human feelings and for the development of a truly universal culture in their society.

Their national awareness maintains them at the level of their message and their responsibilities towards the international community. Arabism is the pivot and the source of all authentic existence. Without it, danger becomes imminent, alienation and intellectual confusion inevitable. It is the gate through which we gain access to the stream of human civilizations. Internationalism which does not start from this point, is severed from our national cause, and has no connection with a historic message, remains superficial, abstract and without impact.

Those who hark back to the tragedy of – National Socialism – in Europe to prove that any form of socialist nationalism is condemnable, and also that Stalinist internationalism is alone valid for humanity as a whole, base themselves on doubtful ideas and criteria of no logical value. When they pronounce “judgements without appeal” of this sort, against all forms of nationalism, they are inveighing against the racist and aggressive ideas which developed in Europe in very specific circumstances, marked by a certain degree of intellectual and moral decadence. Evil was inherent neither in nationalism nor in socialism – two genuine human principles – but in the fanaticism of those who spoke in the name of sacred values, and equally in the reactionary attitudes adopted by European socialist and nationalist parties. The fact that some nationalist movements veered towards chauvinism, racism and fanaticism, in no way proves this to be a general rule, to be applied obligatorily to any movement arising out of nationalist ideology. In the same way, the fact that some European socialist parties chose the parliamentary method, does not mean that this is the only way open to socialist parties in the world or that it is the safest, the most rational and the most natural. The experience of the East, as in the West, are equally for us sources from which we can draw innumerable lessons to guide us in the struggle we are making with our people, building on a new vision of life.

The present, the future and ourselves

We have discussed the attitude adopted by reactionaries with regard to our national past, but what about the present? Reactionaries believe our present condition to be decadent and vitiated, but they are in no way convinced, when they speak in this way, that such conditions should be reviewed and transformed according to scientific plans of modern conception. They think, on the contrary that decadence fell upon us because we deviated from the formulae of the past, which gave birth to an illustrious Arab civilization. According to them, we ought to reintegrate these formulae in their entirety, in order to rectify the situation. They propose no other alternatives, in their certainty that structures of the past are eternally valid. They do not stop with the present. Their attitude holds also for the future. In accordance with reactionary beliefs, those who try to divert the Arabs from the formulae applied at the time of the splendour of Arab-Moslem civilization, are the basic element in our Nation’s alienation and bewilderment. In the last analysis, they want our present and our future to be enclosed in a veritable straight-jacket made up of the structures and formulae of the past.

Stalinist internationalists and anti-Arabs also consider our present to be unsatisfactory; but they do not believe that a solution can be found within and be thoroughly adapted to our personality. In their eyes, the degradation of our present situation is due to the fact that we have not succeeded in getting rid of all the factors which make up our identity and distinguish us from other nations. They aspire to a future completely foreign to us, a made-to measure future but of a borrowed mould, a future in which we should be totally dependent on those who created for us an identity which does no belong to us. Reactionaries and anti-Arabs share the same attitude, which is a grave menace to Arabism. They are foreign to our truth and do their best to alienate us from it. Reactionaries look on Arab society as if it were still in childhood, as if the events and experience of our lives had altered nothing! They have a totally erroneous idea of social life. It is as if, for them, the earth had never turned since ancient times with its high degree of Arab civilization. Do they not resemble in this an adult trying to wear the clothes he wore as a child? If we followed their ideas, should we not be childish in our intellectual formulation, in our feelings and behaviour? Their ideas are, evidently, against Nature, for no child can remain a child forever… except in death.  The logical end of reactionary thought is simply the suppression of the present and the closing of the gate to the future. For them, nothing is to be expected from the future. All we have to do is to ruminate on our past and allow it to consume itself in our hearts,  destroying with it our present and our future, smothering our aspirations and…  our foresight. The past, in the view of reactionaries, resembles a grave in which to bury all creative spirit, all talents and all freedom.

Stalinist internationalists and anti-Arabs have an abstract, “quantitative” view of our society, as they have of all others. Their approach kills both the qualities and the genius peculiar to each nation. They have a vision always the same – of people, nations and human societies. Which deprives each one of its “raison d’etre” and that which is its essence. Their form of internationalism always ends by becoming “cosmopolitanism.”

Source

Marx and Engels on Islam

Marx and Engels

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

Both Marx and Engels wrote only in passing on Islam. However they provide some insights. Their view can be summarised briefly, in three main points:

(i) That the relationship between Jews and the Arabs (Bedouin) was historically, extremely close, and that the Jews had become separated away from the Arabs over time:

“The supposed genealogy of Noah, Abraham, etc., to be found in Genesis is a fairly accurate enumeration of the Bedouin tribes of the time, according to the degree of their dialectal relationships, etc. As we all know, Bedouin tribes continue to this day to call themselves Beni Saled, Beni Yusuf, etc., i.e. sons of so and so. This nomenclature, which owes its origins to the early patriarchal mode of existence, ultimately leads up to this type of genealogy. The enumeration in Genesis is plus ou moins confirmed by ancient geographers, while more recent travellers have shown that most of the old names still exist, though in dialectally altered form. But from this it emerges that the Jews themselves were no more than a small Bedouin tribe like the others, which was brought into conflict with the other Bedouins by local conditions, agriculture, etc. “

Engels Letter Volume 39: written 1853 (see below for full text).

“It is now quite clear to me that the Jews’ so-called Holy Writ is nothing more than a record of ancient Arab religious and tribal traditions, modified by the Jews’ early separation from their tribally related but nomadic neighbours. The circumstance of Palestine’s being surrounded on the Arabian side by nothing but desert, i.e. the land of the Bedouins, explains its separate development. But the ancient Arabian inscriptions and traditions and the Koran, as well as the ease with which all genealogies, etc., can now be unravelled, show that the main content was Arab, or rather, generally Semitic, as in our case the Edda and the German heroic saga.”

Engels To Marx In London Source: Collected Works Volume 39, p. 325. (see below for full text).

(ii) That Judaism was an early form of Christianity, and it was as an “intermediary,” “covering”  Greek world views –  that allowed it to become a world religion:

“It was only by the intermediary of the monotheistic Jewish religion that – the cultured monotheism of later Greek vulgar philosophy could clothe itself in the religious form in which alone it could grip the masses. But once this intermediary found, it could become a universal religion only in the Greco-Roman world, and that by further development in and merging with the thought material that world had achieved.”

On the History of Early Christianity”; written 1894; Find at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894/early-christianity/index.htm

(iii) That when looked at superficially, the history of “the East” did appear as one of “religions.”

“So far as religion is concerned, the question may be reduced to a general and hence easily answerable one: Why does the history of the East appear as a history of religions?”

Marx to Engels, Volume 39: 1853. (see below for full text).

These texts also cover the ground of Oriental Despotism.


TEXT 1:

Engels To Marx In London Source: Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 325-328.

Written Manchester, before 28 May 1853

Dear Marx,

So the bomb is at long last about to go off, as you will see from the enclosed scrappy proof and Weydemeyer’s letter. Willich’s manner of extricating himself is strange, at any rate; you will undoubtedly be much amused by these lame circumlocutions and the awkward and embarrassed style. The fellow’s been hard hit. But papa Schramm [i.e. Conrad Schramm-original notes by publisher] would seem to have gravely insulted him in Cincinnati; all grist to the mill. One thing we may be sure of is that the only effect of this statement will be to compromise the chivalrous one even more.

So just because the New-Yorker-Criminal Zeitung!!!!! has published attacks upon him, the gallant Willich feels compelled to break his heroic silence.

‘Putting the case at its highest!,’ In Willich’s case bodies do not fall downwards but upwards! Good-bye to gravity! The fellow’s quite mad. The same old tale of  assassination too! We shall now see the aforesaid Schramm leap promptly into the lists, statement in hand [Willich slanderously represented his duel with Schramm in Spetember 1850, as an attempt by Marx and Engels to get rid of him by having him killed].

To put your mind at rest, I can inform you that the Neu-England-Ztg. today advised me of the dispatch of 420 copies of Revelations [Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne by Marx] to my address, so they may be here tomorrow or, if the parcel didn’t go off by the last steamer, in a week at the most.

The fellows have the effrontery to send me a letter signed semi-anonymously ‘Office of the N.-E.-Z.’ inviting me to contribute. That’s the last straw!

At all events, it’s a good thing that we now possess in the Reform [Die reform was the organ of the American Workers Association consisting mostly of German emigrant workers. Though officially its editor was the petty-bourgeois democrat Kellner, the newspaper’s tendency was determined to a great extent by Wedemeyer, who became the actual editor in the summer of 1853. Under his influence the paper retained its commitment of the working class for some time. It often reprinted Marx’s and Engel’s articles form the New York Daily Tribune. Marx persuaded his associated (Eccarious, Piper and Dronke) to cooperate with Die Reform, which regularly published articles and reports by Cluss and Wedermeyer, some based on materials from Marx’s letters. Towards the end of  its existence, the petty-bourgeois influence of its editor-in-chief, Kellner, became dominant]. an organ in which, if the worst comes to the worst, we can still make ourselves heard in the polemic against Willich and Co. As a result of the rumpus, Kellner is becoming more and more embroiled.

Weydemeyer’s misprint shouldn’t surprise you. After all, you must know that when Weydemeyer does something, it is always ‘similar’ rather than ‘glorious’.

The little fellow is coming here next Sunday. I am curious to see how he is shaping as a clerk in Bradford. At all events the good Buckup seems to be working him very hard.

Yesterday I read the book on Arabian inscriptions which I told you about. The thing is not without interest, repulsive though it is to find the parson and biblical apologist  forever peeping through. His greatest triumph is to show that Gibbon made some mistakes in the field of ancient geography, from which he also concludes that Gibbon’s theology was deplorable. The thing is called The Historical Geography of Arabia, by the Reverend Charles Forster. The best things to emerge from it are:

1. The supposed genealogy of Noah, Abraham, etc., to be found in Genesis is a fairly accurate enumeration of the Bedouin tribes of the time, according to the degree of their dialectal relationships, etc. As we all know, Bedouin tribes continue to this day to call themselves Beni Saled, Beni Yusuf, etc., i.e. sons of so and so. This nomenclature, which owes its origins to the early patriarchal mode of existence, ultimately leads up to this type of genealogy. The enumeration in Genesis is plus ou moins [more or less] confirmed by ancient geographers, while more recent travellers have shown that most of the old names still exist, though in dialectally altered form. But from this it emerges that the Jews themselves were no more than a small Bedouin tribe like the others, which was brought into conflict with the other Bedouins by local conditions, agriculture, etc.

2. As for the great Arab invasion, you will remember our discussion when we concluded that, like the Mongols, the Bedouins carried out periodic invasions and that the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires were founded by Bedouin tribes on the very same spot as, later, the Caliphate of Baghdad. The founders of the Babylonian Empire, the Chaldeans, still exist under the same name, Beni Chaled, and in the same locality. The rapid construction of large cities, such as Nineveh and Babylon, happened in just the same way as the creation in India only 300 years ago of similar giant cities, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Muttan, by the Afghan and/or Tartar invasions. In this way the Mohammedan invasion loses much of its distinctive character.

3. In the South-West, where the Arabs settled, they appear to have been a civilised people like the Egyptians, Assyrians, etc., as is evident from their buildings. This also explains many things about the Mohammedan invasion. So far as the religious fraud is concerned, the ancient inscriptions in the South, in which the ancient Arab national tradition of monotheism (as with the American Indians) still predominates, a tradition of which the Hebrew is only a small part would seem to indicate that Mohammed’s religious revolution, like every religious movement, was formally a reaction, a would-be return to what was old and simple.

It is now quite clear to me that the Jews’ so-called Holy Writ is nothing more than a record of ancient Arab religious and tribal traditions, modified by the Jews’ early separation from their tribally related but nomadic neighbours. The circumstance of Palestine’s being surrounded on the Arabian side by nothing but desert, i.e. the land of the Bedouins, explains its separate development. But the ancient Arabian inscriptions and traditions and the Koran, as well as the ease with which all genealogies, etc., can now be unravelled, show that the main content was Arab, or rather, generally Semitic, as in our case the Edda [A collection of Scandinavian mythological and heroic saga and lay: two versions dating back to the 13th Cnetury are still extant] and the German heroic saga.

Your
F. E.


TEXT 2:

Marx To Engels. 2 June 1853; Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 330-334.

Written 28 Dean Street, Soho.

Dear Frederic,

The first half of the £20 note has turned up. I am writing this before going to the Museum, i.e. at a very early hour.

I would have sent you long ago the enclosed great Willich’s statement to the      Neu-England-Zeitung had I not assumed that you’d had the thing from Weydemeyer. In conception this second statement is pure, genuine Willich. Others write ‘essays’, he writes ‘facts,’ and only if one has been on a ‘personal footing’ with him does the calumny lose its sting. It is the manoeuvre of your petty partisan. He does not answer for his own Hirsch. Rather, he explains to the public Marx’s ‘motives’ for not refuting his Hirsch. And now he has discovered a terrain where he can operate with a measure of virtuosity. And it is with ‘reluctance’ that the noble man reveals the facts to the ‘public.’ Needless to say, he has preferred to whisper them to the philistines in the privacy of the beer-parlour and, for the past three years, to peddle them ‘contraband-wise’ throughout two hemispheres, juvante Kinkelio. Then his manoeuvring to keep the public on tenterhooks. They forget the facts among which he twists and turns and eagerly await the  facts which are to demolish the ‘critical authors.’ And the noble man is ‘distinguished’ withal, as befits a ‘public figure.’ When he does reply, it will not be to Marx’s uncouth ‘agents’ but to the ‘ingenious’ quill-pushers themselves. Finally, he gives the public to understand that what makes his opponents so cocksure is their belief in his ‘decision’ to retire and, with a roll of drums, this important personage proceeds to announce that he has ‘changed’ his mind.

Tout ça nest pas trop mal pour un vieux sous-lieutenant. [Not too bad for an old second lieutenant] But as for the style of statement No. 2 — bad as it is, it is nevertheless apocryphal. Other hands have been at work on it, probably those of Madame Anneke. At all events, the necessary supplement to Tellering’s pamphlet will now be published by Mr Willich and, the dirty business having been once placed before the public, il faut aller jusqu’au bout [It must be taken to its conclusion]. If Weydemeyer, Cluss and Co. operate with skill, they should now be able to put a spoke in Willich’s wheel and ruin the impact and novelty of the surprises he is holding in store for the public. Nous verrons [we shall see].

The praise you accord to my ‘budding’ English, I find most encouraging. What I chiefly lack is first, assurance as to grammar and secondly, skill in using various secondary idioms which alone enable one to write with any pungency. Mr Tribune has given special prominence to a note about my 2nd article on Gladstone’s Budget, drawing the attention of readers to my ‘masterly exposition’ and going on to say that nowhere have they seen ‘a more able criticism,’ and do ‘not expect to see one.’ Well, that is all right. But in the following article it proceeds to make an ass of me by printing under my name a heading of mine which is quite trifling and intentionally so, whereas it appropriates your ‘Swiss’ thing. I shall write and tell Dana that, ‘flattering’ though it may be if they occasionally use my things for a leader, they would oblige me by not putting my name to trifles. I have now sent the jackasses, amongst other things, 2 articles on ‘China’ with reference to England. If you have the time and happen to feel like writing about something — Switzerland, the East, France, England or cotton, or Denmark, say  — you should do so on occasion, for I am now slogging away with an eye to the fellow’s money-bags in order to make good the 3 weeks I have lost. If you send me something from time to time — de omnibus rebus [anything under the sun]— I shall always be able to place it, for as you know, I am the fellows’ ‘maid of all work’, and it’s always easy to relate one thing to another and to every day. All in all.

As regards the Hebrews and Arabs, I found your letter most interesting. It can, by the by, be shown that 1. in the case of all eastern tribes there has been, since the dawn of history, a general relationship between the settlement of one section and the continued nomadism of the others. 2. In Mohammed’s time the trade route from Europe to Asia underwent considerable modification, and the cities of Arabia, which had had a large share of the trade with India, etc., suffered a commercial decline — a fact which at all events contributed to the process. 3. So far as religion is concerned, the question may be reduced to a general and hence easily answerable one: Why does the history of the East appear as a history of religions?

On the subject of the growth of eastern cities one could hardly find anything more brilliant, comprehensive or striking than Voyages contenant la description des états du Grand Mogol, etc. by old Franoçois Bernier (for 9 years Aurangzeb’s physician). He provides in addition a very nice account of military organisation and the manner in which these large armies fed themselves, etc. Concerning both these, he remarks inter alia [Original is in French- translated by publishers]:

“The main body consists of cavalry, the infantry not being so numerous as is commonly supposed unless all those serving-people and bazaar or market folk who follow the army are taken for true warriors; for, if such were the case, there would, I think, be good reason to put at 2 to 300,000 men the strength of that army alone that is with the king, and sometimes even more, as, for example, when it is known that he will be long absent from the capital city; which would not, indeed, seem so very surprising to anyone familiar with all the strange impedimenta of tents, kitchen, clothing, furniture, and even women quite often, and, consequently, elephants, camels, oxen, horses, porters, foragers, sutlers, merchants of all kinds and servants who follow in the wake of these armies, nor to anyone familiar with the conditions and government peculiar to the country, namely that the king is the sole and unique proprietor of all the lands in the kingdom, whence it necessarily follows that every capital city, such as Delhi or Agra, fixes almost wholly on the militia and is therefore obliged to follow the king whenever he goes campaigning for a time, these cities neither being, nor indeed able to be, in any respect a Paris, but being really nothing but an army encampment rather better and more commodiously situated than if it were in the open country.” [in French, with Marx’s italics]

In reference to the Grand Mogul’s march on Kashmir, with an army 400,000 strong, he writes:

“How and upon what so great an army can subsist in the field, or so large a concourse of men and animals, is difficult to conceive. To that end one can only surmise, and such is indeed the case, that the Indians are very sober and very simple in what they eat and that, of this great number of horsemen, not one tenth, nay, not even one twentieth, eats meat during the march; provided they have their khichri, or mess of rice and other vegetables, whereon they pour brown butter when cooked, they are content. It should also be known that camels are extremely resistant to work, hunger and thirst, live on very little and eat anything and that, as soon as the army reaches camp, the camel-drivers lead them out to graze in the countryside, where they eat everything that comes their way; further, that the same merchants that keep the bazaars in Delhi are obliged to keep them in the field also, likewise the lesser merchants, etc. … finally, concerning forage, all these poor people go roving in every direction to the villages to buy the same and to earn something there, and that their chief and habitual recourse is to scratch up whole stretches of country with a kind of trowel, pounding and washing the little herbs thus scratched up, and taking them to the army for sale…”

Bernier rightly sees all the manifestations of the East — he mentions Turkey, Persia and Hindustan — as having a common basis, namely the absence of private landed property. This is the real clef, even to the eastern heaven.

It would seem to be no go with Borchardt; nevertheless I think the fellow might be prepared to try and obtain recommendations for Lupus from Steinthal, etc., to London merchants. So much, at least, you could compel him to do, and it would mean a great deal to Lupus.

What do you think about the failure of the hudibrastic Rodolpho [An allusion to Ralpho – a charactar in Samuel Butler’s satirical peom Hudibras] Gladstone’s ‘Financial Scheme for reducing the national Debt’?

The day before yesterday the Journal des Débats revealed the true secret of Russia’s impudence. The Continent, it says, must either expose its independence to danger from Russia, or it must expose itself to war, and that is ‘la revolution sociale’. What the wretched Débats forgets, however, is that Russia is no less afraid of revolution than Mr Bertin, and that the whole question now is who can most convincingly simulate ‘non-fear’. But England and France — the official ones — are so abject that Nicholas, if he sticks to his guns, will be able to do what he likes.

Vale faveque [Good-bye & farewell].

C. M.

Have written to Lassalle, who will probably be ready to take receipt of a few 100 copies of the pamphlet and distribute them in Germany. The question now is how are we to get them across? When I was in Manchester Charles suggested it might be done by including them in a consignment of merchandise. You might ask him about this again.

P.S. There’s been a delay over the posting of this letter and so I can include an acknowledgment of the parcel of books and the other half of the note.


TEXT 3:

Engels to Marx. Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 335-342.

Written 6 June 1853; Manchester.

Dear Marx,

I had intended to write to you by the first post today, but was detained at the office until 8 o’clock. You will have received both Weydemeyer’s and Cluss’ anti-Willich statements in the Criminal Zeitung, i.e. direct from America. If not, write to me at once. As usual, papa Weydemeyer is too long-winded, very seldom makes a point, then promptly blunts it with his style, and unfolds his well-known lack of verve with rare composure. Nevertheless, the man has done his best, the story about Hentze, the ‘comrade-in-arms’, and the influence of others on Hirsch’s pen is nicely fashioned; his incredible style and his composure, regarded over there as impassibility, will appeal to the philistines, and his performance can, on the whole, be regarded as satisfactory. Cluss’ statement, on the other hand, pleases me enormously. In every line we hear the chuckle of l’homme suprieur who, through ‘personal contact’ with Willich, has, as it were, become physically conscious of his superiority. For lightness of style, this surpasses everything that Cluss has ever written. Never a clumsy turn of phrase, not a trace of gêne [constraint] or embarrassment. How well it becomes him thus to ape the worthy citizen of benevolent mien who nevertheless betrays the cloven hoof at every turn. How splendid, the sentence about ‘revolutionary agencies’ being ‘a swindle’ off which, according to Willich, he lives. The chivalrous one will have been surprised to find among the uncouth agents, a fellow who is so dashing, so adroit, so aggressive by nature and yet so unassumingly noble in his bearing, and who returns thrust for thrust a tempo. So subtly — far more subtly and deftly than himself. If only Willich had the discernment to discover this! But irritation and due reflection will, I trust, give him a little more insight.

It is obvious that we shall have to see this dirty business through to the bitter end. The more resolutely we tackle it the better. You’ll find, by the way, that it won’t be so bad after all. The chivalrous one has promised vastly more than he can fulfill. We shall hear of assassination attempts, etc., the Schramm affair will be glamorously tricked out, and such chimeras will be evoked as will cause us to stare at one another in amazement, not having the faintest idea what the man is actually talking about; at worst he will tell the story about Marx and Engels arriving drunk one evening at Great Windmill Street (vide Kinkel in Cincinnati, coram Huzelio) [In Huzels presence]. If he goes as far as that, I shall tell the scandal-loving American public what the Besançon Company used to talk about when Willich and the formosus [comely] pastor Corydon Rauf [Office Rau is compared to shepherd Corydon, a character in pastoral poems who suffers from unrequited love] were not present. Au bout du compte, [come, to that] what can a brute of this kind find to tax us with? Mark my word, it will be just as pauvre [poor] as Tellering’s smear.

I shall be seeing Borchardt within the next few days. If any recommendations are to be had, you can trust me to get them. But I hardly imagine that Steinthal, etc., have connections of the sort in London. It’s almost wholly outside their line of business. Besides, if only for fear of making a fool of himself, the fellow will attempt to put off doing anything about it up here. If it were not for Lupus, I’d consign the chap, etc. I can’t abide him, with his smooth, self-important, vainglorious, deceitful charlatan’s physiognomy.

If Lassalle has given you a good, neutral address in Dsseldorf, you can send me 100 copies. We shall arrange for them to be packed in bales of twist by firms up here; but they should not be addressed to Lassalle himself, since the packages will go to Gladbach, Elberfeld and so on, where they will have to be stamped and sent by post to Dsseldorf. However, we cannot entrust a package for Lassalle or the Hatzfeldt woman to any local firm, because, 1. they all employ at least one Rhinelander who knows all the gossip, or 2. if that goes off all right, the recipients of the bales will get to know about it, or 3. at the very best the postal authorities will take a look at the things before delivering them. We have a good address in Cologne, but are not, alas, very well acquainted with the people who are the principal buyers here for the firm in Cologne, and hence cannot expect them to do any smuggling. Indeed, what we shall tell the people here is that the packages contain presents for the fair sex.

From all this you will gather that I am once again on passable terms with Charles. The affair was settled with great dispatch at the first suitable opportunity. Nevertheless you will realise that the fool derives a certain pleasure from having been given preference over myself in one rotten respect at least, because of Mr Gottfried Ermen’s envy of my old man. Habeat sibi [Let him have it]. He at any rate realises that, if I so choose, I can become matre de la situation [master of the situation] within 48 hours, and that’s sufficient.

The absence of landed property is indeed the key to the whole of the East. Therein lies its political and religious history. But how to explain the fact that orientals never reached the stage of landed property, not even the feudal kind? This is, I think, largely due to the climate, combined with the nature of the land, more especially the great stretches of desert extending from the Sahara right across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary [Turkestan] to the highest of the Asiatic uplands. Here artificial irrigation is the first prerequisite for agriculture, and this is the responsibility either of the communes, the provinces or the central government. In the East, the government has always consisted of 3 departments only: Finance (pillage at home), War (pillage at home and abroad), and travaux publics [public works], provision for reproduction. The British government in India has put a somewhat narrower interpretation on nos. 1 and 2 while completely neglecting no. 3, so that Indian agriculture is going to wrack and ruin. Free competition is proving an absolute fiasco there. The fact that the land was made fertile by artificial means and immediately ceased to be so when the conduits fell into disrepair, explains the otherwise curious circumstance that vast expanses are now and wastes which once were magnificently cultivated (Palmyra, Petra, the ruins in the Yemen, any number of localities in Egypt, Persia, Hindustan); it explains the fact that one single war of devastation could depopulate and entirely strip a country of its civilisation for centuries to come. This, I believe, also accounts for the destruction of southern Arabian trade before Mohammed’s time, a circumstance very rightly regarded by you as one of the mainsprings of the Mohammedan revolution. I am not sufficiently well acquainted with the history of trade during the first six centuries A.D. to be able to judge to what extent general material conditions in the world made the trade route via Persia to the Black Sea and to Syria and Asia Minor via the Persian Gulf preferable to the Red Sea route. But one significant factor, at any rate, must have been the relative safety of the caravans in the well-ordered Persian Empire under the Sassanids, whereas between 200 and 600 A.D. the Yemen was almost continuously being subjugated, overrun and pillaged by the Abyssinians. By the seventh century the cities of southern Arabia, still flourishing in Roman times, had become a veritable wilderness of ruins; in the course of 500 years what were purely mythical, legendary traditions regarding their origin had been appropriated by the neighbouring Bedouins, (cf. the Koran and the Arab historian Novari), and the alphabet in which the local inscriptions had been written was almost wholly unknown although there was no other, so that de facto writing had fallen into oblivion. Things of this kind presuppose, not only a superseding, probably due to general trading conditions, but outright violent destruction such as could only be explained by the Ethiopian invasion. The expulsion of the Abyssinians did not take place until about 40 years before Mohammed, and was plainly the first act of the Arabs’ awakening national consciousness, which was further aroused by Persian invasions from the North penetrating almost as far as Mecca. I shall not be tackling the history of Mohammed himself for a few days yet; so far it seems to me to have the character of a Bedouin reaction against the settled, albeit decadent urban fellaheen whose religion by then was also much debased, combining as it did a degenerate form of nature worship with a degenerate form of Judaism and Christianity.

Old Bernier’s stuff is really very fine. It’s a real pleasure to get back to something written by a sensible, lucid old Frenchman who constantly hits the nail on the head sans avoir l’air de s’en apercevoir [without appearing to be aware of it].

Since I am in any case tied up with the eastern mummery for some weeks, I have made use of the opportunity to learn Persian. I am put off Arabic, partly by my inborn hatred of Semitic languages, partly by the impossibility of getting anywhere, without considerable expenditure of time, in so extensive a language — one which has 4,000 roots and goes back over 2,000-3,000 years. By comparison, Persian is absolute child’s play. Were it not for that damned Arabic alphabet in which every half dozen letters looks like every other half dozen and the vowels are not written, I would undertake to learn the entire grammar within 48 hours. This for the better encouragement of Pieper should he feel the urge to imitate me in this poor joke. I have set myself a maximum of three weeks for Persian, so if he stakes two months on it he’ll best me anyway. What a pity Weitling can’t speak Persian; he would then have his langue universelle toute trouvie [universal language ready-made] since it is, to my knowledge, the only language where ‘me’ and ‘to me’ are never at odds, the dative and accusative always being the same.

It is, by the way, rather pleasing to read dissolute old Hafiz in the original language, which sounds quite passable and, in his grammar, old Sir William Jones likes to cite as examples dubious Persian jokes, subsequently translated into Greek verse in his Commentariis poeseos asiaticae, because even in Latin they seem to him too obscene. These commentaries, Jones’ Works, Vol. II, De Poesi erotica, will amuse you. Persian prose, on the other hand, is deadly dull. E.g. the Rauzt-us-saf by the noble Mirkhond, who recounts the Persian epic in very flowery but vacuous language. Of Alexander the Great, he says that the name Iskander, in the Ionian language, is Akshid Rus (like Iskander, a corrupt version of Alexandros); it means much the same as filusuf, which derives from fila, love, and sufa, wisdom, ‘Iskander’ thus being synonymous with ‘friend of wisdom.’

Of a retired king he says: ‘He beat the drum of abdication with the drumsticks of retirement’, as will pre Willich, should he involve himself any more deeply in the literary fray. Willich will also suffer the same fate as King Afrasiab of Turan when deserted by his troops and of whom Mirkhond says: ‘He gnawed the nails of horror with the teeth of desperation until the blood of vanquished consciousness welled forth from the finger-tips of shame.’

More tomorrow.


TEXT 4:

Engels F: “Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity”; Collected Works Volume 24; Moscow; 1989; p.427-435.

Written May 4-11, 1882.

In Berlin, on April 13, a man died who once played a role as a philosopher and a theologian, but was hardly heard of for years, only attracting the attention of the public from time to time as a “literary eccentric”. Official theologians, including Renan, wrote him off and, therefore, maintained a silence of death about him. And yet he was worth more than them all and did more than all of them in a question which interests us Socialists, too: the question of the historical origin of Christianity.

On the occasion of his death, let us give a brief account of the present position on this question, and Bauer’s contribution to its solution.

The view that dominated from the free-thinkers of the Middle Ages to the Enlighteners of the 18th century, the latter included, that all religions, and therefore Christianity too, were the work of deceivers was no longer sufficient after Hegel had set philosophy the task of showing a rational evolution in world history.

It is clear that if spontaneously arising religions — like the fetish worship of the Negroes or the common primitive religion of the Aryans — come to being without deception playing any part, deception by the priests soon becomes inevitable in their further development. But, in spite of all sincere fanaticism, artificial religions cannot even, at their foundation, do without deception and falsification of history. Christianity, too, has pretty achievements to boast of in this respect from the very beginning, as Bauer shows in his criticism of the New Testament. But that only confirms a general phenomenon and does not explain the particular case in question.

A religion that brought the Roman world empire into subjection, and dominated by far the larger part of civilized humanity for 1,800 years, cannot be disposed of merely by declaring it to be nonsense gleaned together by frauds. One cannot dispose of it before one succeeds in explaining its origin and its development from the historical conditions under which it arose and reached its dominating position. This applies to Christianity. The question to be solved, then, is how it came about that the popular masses in the Roman Empire so far preferred this nonsense — which was preached, into the bargain, by slaves and oppressed — to all other religions, that the ambitious Constantine finally saw in the adoption of this religion of nonsense the best means of exalting himself to the position of autocrat of the Roman world. [Under the Christian tradition, the name of the Roman Emperor Flavius Valerius Constaninus Magnus, who in 330 transferred the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, is associated with the radical turn form persecution of Christianity to the protection of the new religion, although this process had begun under his predecessors.]

 

Bruno Bauer has contributed far more to the solution of this question than anybody else. No matter how much the half-believing theologians of the period of reaction have struggled against him since 1849, he irrefutably proved the chronological order of the Gospels and their mutual interdependence, shown by Wilke from the purely linguistic standpoint, by the very contents of the Gospels themselves. He exposed the utter lack of scientific spirit of Strauss’ vague myth theory according to which anybody can hold for historical as much as he likes in the Gospel narrations. And, if almost nothing from the whole content of the Gospels turns out to be historically provable — so that even the historical existence of a Jesus Christ can be questioned — Bauer has, thereby, only cleared the ground for the solution of the question: what is the origin of the ideas and thoughts that have been woven together into a sort of system in Christianity, and how came they to dominate the world?

Bauer studied this question until his death. His research reached its culminating point in the conclusion that the Alexandrian Jew Philo, who was still living about A.D. 40 but was already very old, was the real father of Christianity, and that the Roman stoic Seneca was, so to speak, its uncle. The numerous writings attributed to Philo which have reached us originate indeed in a fusion of allegorically and rationalistically conceived Jewish traditions with Greek, particularly stoic, philosophy. This conciliation of western and eastern outlooks already contains all the essentially Christian ideas: the inborn sinfulness of man, the Logos, the Word, which is with God and is God and which becomes the mediator between God and man: atonement, not by sacrifices of animals, but by bringing one’s own heart of God, and finally the essential feature that the new religious philosophy reverses the previous world order, seeks its disciples among the poor, the miserable, the slaves, and the rejected, and despises the rich, the powerful, and the privileged, whence the precept to despise all worldly pleasure and to mortify the flesh.

One the other hand, Augustus himself saw to it that not only the God-man, but also the so-called immaculate conception became formulae imposed by the state. He not only had Caesar and himself worshipped as gods, he also spread the notion that he, Augustus Caesar Divus, the Divine, was not the son of a human father but that his mother had conceived him of the god Apollo. But was not that Apollo perhaps a relation of the one sung by Heinrich Heine? [Engels is referring to a charactar in Heine’s satirical poem ‘Der Apollgott’ (from Romanzero), a young blade, a cantor at the Amsterdam synagogue, who imitated Apollo.]

As we see, we need only the keystone and we have the whole of Christianity in its basic features: the incarnation of the Word become man in a definite person and his sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of sinful mankind.

Truly reliable sources leave us uncertain as to when this keystone was introduced into the stoic-philonic doctrines. But this much is sure: it was not introduced by philosophers, either Philo’s disciples or stoics. Religions are founded by people who feel a need for religion themselves and have a feeling for the religious needs of the masses. As a rule, this is not the case with the classical philosophers. On the other hand, we find that in times of general decay, now, for instance, philosophy and religious dogmatism are generally current in a vulgarized and shallow form. While classic Greek philosophy in its last forms — particularly in the Epicurean school [the Epicurean school of materialist philosophy was founded by Epicurius in the late 4th Century BC and existed until the mid-4th Century AD. In thier philosophical struggle against the Stoics, its members refused to recognise the gods’ interference into mundane matters and proceeded from the assumption that matter, which has an inner source of motion, is eternal] — led to atheistic materialism, Greek vulgar philosophy led to the doctrine of a one and only God and of the immortality of the human soul. Likewise, rationally vulgarized Judaism in mixture and intercourse with aliens and half-Jews ended by neglecting the ritual and transforming the formerly exclusively Jewish national god, Jahveh, [Note by Engels: As Ewald has already proved, the Jews used dotting script (containing vowels and reading signs) to write under the consonants in the name of Javeh, which it was forbidden to pronounce, the vowels of the word Adonai, which they read it its place. This was subsequently read as Jehovah. The word is therefore not the name of a god but only a vugar mistake in grammar: in Hebrew it is simply impossible] into the one true God, the creator of heaven and earth, and by adopting the idea of the immortality of the soul which was alien to early Judaism. Thus, monotheistic vulgar philosophy came into contact with vulgar religion, which presented it with the ready-made one and only God. Thus, the ground was prepared on which the elaboration among the Jews of the likewise vulgarized philonic notions and not Philo’s own works that Christianity proceeded from is proved by the New Testament’s almost complete disregard of most of these works, particularly the allegorical and philosophical interpretation of the narrations of the Old Testament. This is an aspect to which Bauer did not devote enough attention.

One can get an idea of what Christianity looked like in its early form by reading the so-called Book of Revelation of John. Wild, confused fanaticism, only the beginnings of dogmas, only the mortification of the flesh of the so-called Christian morals, but on the other hand a multitude of visions and prophesies. The development of the dogmas and moral doctrine belongs to a later period, in which the Gospels and the so-called Epistles of the Apostles were written. In this — at least as regards morals — the philosophy of the stoics, of Seneca in particular, was unceremoniously made us of. Bauer proved that the Epistles often copy the latter word-for-word; in fact, even the faithful noticed this, but they maintained that Seneca had copied from the New Testament, though it had not yet been written in his time. Dogma developed, on the one hand in connection with the legend of Jesus which was then taking shape, and, on the other hand, in the struggle between Christians of Jewish and of pagan origin.

Bauer also gives very valuable data on the causes which helped Christianity to triumph and attain world domination. But here the German philosopher is prevented by his idealism from seeing clearly and formulating precisely. Phrases often replace substance in decisive points. Instead, therefore, of going into details of Bauer’s views, we shall give our own conception of this point, based on Bauer’s works, and also on our personal study.

The Roman conquest dissolved in all subjugated countries, first, directly, the former political conditions, and then, indirectly, also the social conditions of life.

Firstly by substituting for the former organization according to estates (slavery apart) the simple distinction between Roman citizens and peregrines or subjects.

Secondly, and mainly, by exacting tribute in the name of the Roman state. If, under the empire, a limit was set as far as possible in the interest of the state to the governors’ thirst for wealth, that thirst was replaced by ever more effective and oppressive taxation for the benefit of the state treasury, the effect of which was terribly destructive.

Thirdly, Roman law was finally administered everywhere by Roman judges, while the native social system was declared invalid insofar as it was incompatible with the provisions of Roman law.

These three levers necessarily developed a tremendous levelling power, particularly when they were applied for several hundred years to populations — the most vigorous sections of which had been either suppressed or taken away into slavery in the battles preceding, accompanying, and often following, the conquest. Social relations in the provinces came nearer and nearer to those obtaining in the capital and in Italy. The population became more and more sharply divided into three classes, thrown together out of the most varying elements and nationalities: rich people, including not a few emancipated slaves (cf. Petronius), [Engels is referring to Petronius’ Satyricon, where he describes a feast in the house of an emancipated slave, Trimalchionis, who became rich] big landowners or usurers or both at once, like Seneca, the uncle of Christianity; propertyless free people, who in Rome were fed and amused by the state — in the provinces they got on as they could by themselves — and finally the great mass, the slaves. In the face of the state, i.e., the emperor, the first two classes had as few rights as the slaves in the face of their masters. From the time of Tiberius to that of Nero, in particular, it was a practice to sentence rich Roman citizens to death in order to confiscate their property. The support of the government was — materially, the army, which was more like an army of hired foreign soldiers than the old Roman peasant army, and morally, the general view that there was no way out of that condition; that not, indeed, this or that Caesar, but the empire based on military domination was an immutable necessity. This is not the place to examine what very material facts this view was based on.

The general rightlessness and despair of the possibility of a better condition gave rise to a corresponding general slackening and demoralization. The few surviving old Romans of the patrician type and views either were removed or died out; Tacitus was the last of them. The others were glad when they were able to keep away from public life; all they existed for was to collect and enjoy riches, and to indulge in private gossip and private intrigue. The propertyless free citizens were state pensioners in Rome, but in the provinces their condition was an unhappy one. They had to work, and to compete with slave-labor into the bargain. But they were confined to the towns. Besides them, there was also in the provinces peasants, free landowners (here and there probably still common ownership) or, as in Gaul, bondsmen for debts to the big landowners. This class was the least affected by the social upheaval; it was also the one to resist longest the religious upheaval. [Engels note: According to Fallmereyer, the peasants in Main, Peloponnesus, still offered sacrifices to Zeus in the 9th century.] Finally, there were the slaves, deprived of rights and of their own will and the possibility to free themselves, as the defeat of Spartacus [Engels refers to the slave uprising of 73-71 BC in Rome led by Spartacus] had already proved; most of them, however, were former free citizens, or sons of free-born citizens. It must, therefore, have been among them that hatred of their conditions of life was still generally vigorous, though externally powerless.

We shall find that the type of ideologists at the time corresponded to this state of affairs. The philosophers were either mere money-earning schoolmasters or buffoons in the pay of wealthy revellers. Some were even slaves. An example of what became of them under good conditions is supplied by Seneca. This stoic and preacher of virtue and abstinence was Nero’s first court intriguer, which he could not have been without servility; he secured from him presents in money, properties, gardens, and palaces — and while he preached the poor man Lazarus of the Gospel, he was, in reality, the rich man of the same parable. Not until Nero wanted to get at him did he request the emperor to take back all his presents, his philosophy being enough for him. Only completely isolated philosophers, like Persius, had the courage to brandish the lash of satire over their degenerated contemporaries. But, as for the second type of ideologists, the jurists, they were enthusiastic over the new conditions because the abolition of all differences between Estates allowed them broad scope in the elaboration of their favorite private right, in return for which they prepared for the emperor the vilest state system of right that ever existed.

With the political and social peculiarities of the various peoples, the Roman Empire also doomed to ruin their particular religions. All religions of antiquity were spontaneous tribal, and later national, religions, which arose from and merged with the social and political conditions of the respective peoples. Once these, their bases, were disrupted, and their traditional forms of society, their inherited political institutions and their national independence shattered, the religion corresponding to these also naturally collapsed. The national gods could suffer other gods beside them, as was the general rule of antiquity, but not above them. The transplanting of Oriental divinities to Rome was harmful only to the Roman religion, it could not check the decay of the Oriental religions. As soon as the national gods were unable to protect the independence of their nation, they met their own destruction. This was the case everywhere (except with peasants, especially in the mountains). What vulgar philosophical enlightenment — I almost said Voltairianism — did in Rome and Greece, was done in the provinces by Roman oppression and the replacing of men proud of their freedom by desperate subjects and self-seeking ragamuffins.

Such was the material and moral situation. The present was unbearable, the future still more menacing, if possible. There was no way out. Only despair or refuge in the commonest sensuous pleasure, for those who could afford it at least, and they were a tiny minority. Otherwise, nothing but surrender to the inevitable.

But, in all classes there was necessarily a number of people who, despairing of material salvation, sought in its stead a spiritual salvation, a consolation in their consciousness to save them from utter despair. This consolation could not be provided by the stoics any more than by the Epicurean school, for the very reason that these philosophers were not intended for common consciousness and, secondly, because the conduct of disciples of the schools cast discredit on their doctrines. The consolation was to be a substitute, not for the lost philosophy, but for the lost religion; it had to take on a religious form, the same as anything which had to grip the masses both then and as late as the 17th century.

We hardly need to note that the majority of those who were pining for such consolation of their consciousness, for this flight from the external world into the internal, were necessarily among the slaves.

It was in the midst of this general economic, political, intellectual, and moral decadence that Christianity appeared. It entered into a resolute antithesis to all previous religions.

In all previous religions, ritual had been the main thing. Only by taking part in the sacrifices and processions, and in the Orient by observing the most detailed diet and cleanliness precepts, could one show to what religion one belonged. While Rome and Greece were tolerant in the last respect, there was in the Orient a rage for religious prohibitions that contributed no little to the final downfall. People of two different religions (Egyptians, Persians, Jews, Chaldeans) could not eat or drink together, perform any every-day act together, or hardly speak to each other. It was largely due to this segregation of man from man that the Orient collapsed. Christianity knew no distinctive ceremonies, not even the sacrifices and processions of the classic world. By thus rejecting all national religions and their common ceremonies, and addressing itself to all peoples without distinction, it became the first possible world religion. Judaism, too, with its new universal god, had made a start on the way to becoming a universal religion; but the children of Israel always remained an aristocracy among the believers and the circumcised, and Christianity itself had to get rid of the notion of the superiority of the Jewish Christians (still dominant in the so-called Book of Revelation of John) before it could really become a universal religion. Islam, itself, on the other hand, by preserving its specifically Oriental ritual, limited the area of its propagation to the Orient and North Africa, conquered and populated anew by Arab Bedouins; here it could become the dominating religion, but not in the West.

Secondly, Christianity struck a chord that was bound to echo in countless hearts. To all complaints about the wickedness of the times and the general material and moral distress, Christian consciousness of sin answered: It is so and it cannot be otherwise; thou art in blame, ye are all to blame for the corruption of the world, thine and your own internal corruption! And where was the man who could deny it? Mea culpa! The admission of each one’s share in the responsibility for the general unhappiness was irrefutable and was made the precondition for the spiritual salvation which Christianity at the same time announced. And this spiritual salvation was so instituted that it could be easily understood by members of every old religious community. The idea of atonement to placate the offended deity was current in all the old religions; how could the idea of self-sacrifice of the mediator atoning once for all for the sins of humanity not easily find ground there? Christianity, therefore, clearly expressed the universal feeling that men themselves are guilty of the general corruption as the consciousness of sin of each one; at the same time, it provided, in the death-sacrifice of his judge, a form of the universally longed-for internal salvation from the corrupt world, the consolation of consciousness; it thus again proved its capacity to become a world religion and, indeed, a religion which suited the world as it then was.

So it happened that, among the thousands of prophets and preachers in the desert that filled that period of countless religious novations, the founders of Christianity alone met with success. Not only Palestine, but the entire Orient swarmed with such founders of religions, and between them there raged what can be called a Darwinian struggle for ideological existence. Thanks mainly to the elements mentioned above, Christianity won the day. How it gradually developed its character of world religion by natural selection in the struggle of sects against one another and against the pagan world is taught in detail by the history of the Church in the first three centuries.

Source

Bill Bland: Notes on Lebanon

Lebanon

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

Previously unpublished notes by W.B. Bland, circa 1987

Geography

The small state of Lebanon lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean, on the north and east by Syria, and on the south by Israel.

It has an area of 3,600 square miles about half the size of Wales or Albania, and a population of some 3 million about the same as that of Wales and of Albania.

Its principal towns are Beirut (the capital, with a population of 700,000), Tripoli and Sidon.

The People

Ethnically, the people of Lebanon are almost exclusively Arab, and 93% of the population speak Arabic, which is the official language. There are four main religious communities: Maronite Christian (adherents of an Eastern rite church attached to Rome), Sunni Moslem, Shia Moslem and Druze Moslem. 300,000 Palestinian refugees form 10% of the population.

The Economy

40% of the population are engaged in agriculture, producing fruit, tobacco, and cotton. However, agriculture furnishes only 9% of gross national product. Lebanon’s economy is primarily financial and commercial, popular with the capital of other Middle Eastern countries because of its completely laissez-faire economy and the secrecy of its banking system. There is a small-scale textile industry, and a transit trade in crude oil, Lebanon being the terminal for a pipeline of the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company (a subsidiary of Shell) which has a refinery at Tripoli, and another of the US-owned Trans-Arabian Pipeline Company (a subsidiary of Aramco), which has a refinery at Sidon.

Class Divisions

The main social classes in Lebanon are:

1) a comprador capitalist class, drawn mainly from the Christian community, closely linked with and dependent upon foreign – principally United States — imperialism; 

2) a landlord class, drawn mainly from the Sunni Moslem community; 

3) a national bourgeoisie, drawn mainly from the various Moslem communities; 

4) a peasantry, drawn mainly from the Moslem communities; and 

5) a small working class numbering 100,000, drawn mainly from the Moslem communities and involved mainly in the oil-processing and textile industries.

History to 1944

From the 16th century, Lebanon formed part of the Ottoman Empire until the First World War. In 1918 Allied forces seized Lebanon and in 1923 it was made, like the adjoining state of Syria, a French mandate.

During the Second World War, when the French authorities in Lebanon declared in favour of Vichy, British troops occupied the country.

In November 1941 the French Committee of National Liberation declared Lebanon to be an independent state, and the Republic of Lebanon was proclaimed in January 1944. After the war, however, the French government delayed removing its troops, which finally departed only in December 1946.

The State

The Constitution is one of “parliamentary democracy.” The Head of State is a President who is elected by a single-chamber elected National Assembly. However, this body is elected under laws which give the economically dominant Christian community a majority of seats – based on the ratio of Christians to Moslems in the population (6:5) as shown in the (last) Census of 1932.

The domination of the state by the Christian community – in practice by the predominantly Christian comprador capitalist class – is reinforced by an unwritten convention agreed between representatives of the four religious communities in 1943. By this convention it was agreed that the President should always be a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Moslem and the Speaker of the National Assembly a Shia Moslem.

The interests of the comprador capitalists and landlords are represented politically by the National Liberal Party (a vehicle of the financial groups around the Chamoun family) -and the Phalangist Party (named after Franco’s fascist party and a vehicle of the financial groups around the Gemayel family).

The most progressive of the political parties are – the Progressive Socialist Party, founded in 1947 and now led by Walid Jumblatt (a Druze), and the revisionist Lebanese Communist Party, which represent the interests of the national bourgeoisie.

The officers of the army are drawn predominantly from the politically and economically dominant Christian community, while the rank and file are divided into separate units on a religious basis. This brought about a break-up of the army in the civil war of 1975-6, when masses of soldiers deserted to different private militias. From that time the army, and the central state apparatus, has been almost impotent. The elections due in April 1976 were postponed because of the civil war, and no elections have been able to be held since. Unable to collect taxes over most of the country, the state has become increasingly dependent upon foreign aid – principally from Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United States: in the first half of 1984 alone Lebanon’s balance of payments deficit stood at $700 million. Effective political power is exercised locally by:

1) the foreign occupying forces of Syria in the north and west;
2) rival para-military forces armed and financed by the neighbouring states of Iraq, Israel and Syria;
3) rival para-military forces armed and financed by the political parties of the Lebanese ruling classes – the Tigers of the National Liberal Party and the Lebanese Forces of the Phalangists; and
4) a para-military force of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (the Palestine Liberation Army), armed and financed by certain Arab states (principally Syria,. Libya and Saudi Arabia) and (since July 1972) by the Soviet Union. The PLO contains factions financed and armed by, and subservient to, different states, a number of which are mere small terrorist organisations.

The Formation of Israel

The state of Israel came into being in May 1948 as a result of the desire of the Western imperialist powers to establish a “fifth column” in the heart of the Arab world in the form of a small Jewish racist state which would be dependent for its continued existence on these Powers.

It was proclaimed following a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly of November 1947, which recommended that the British mandated territory of Palestine should be partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Zionist terrorist gangs drove many Arabs from the territory of the Jewish state, and since then Israel has extended its territory in a number of phoney wars to embrace the whole of Palestine, an area four times that allotted to the Jewish state in the original Partition Plan.

A large proportion of the Arab population of Palestine became homeless, stateless refugees in neighbouring Arab states, mainly Jordan and Lebanon.

The US Military Intervention in Lebanon

In January 1957 US President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed a new American policy, known as the “Eisenhower Doctrine“. This provided for US military aid and the use of US troops to “protect” Middle Eastern states threatened with “aggression.”

By the late 1950s popular dissatisfaction in Lebanon with the corrupt regime of President Camille Chamoun and its policy of subservience to United States imperialism had been reinforced by dissatisfaction with the whole state system, particularly since (although no new census was taken) the Moslem communities now formed a majority of the population.

In May 1958 this dissatisfaction broke out into a mass insurrection against the regime. When, in July, the armed forces of the state proved unable to suppress this and a national-democratic revolution in neighbouring Iraq had toppled the feudal pro-imperialist regime of King Feisal, Chamoun appealed to the United States for military intervention, and 14,000 US troops were landed in Lebanon (British troops being simultaneously landed in Jordan).

Under American pressure, the domination of the state by the Christian comprador capitalist groups was saved by securing the replacement of Chamoun as President in September 1958 by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Fuad Chehab, who appointed a new government giving Ministerial posts to leaders of the opposition. The American forces withdrew from the country in October.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation

Fatah (Conquest) was formed among these refugees under the leadership of Yassir Arafat with the declared aim of establishing a Palestinian state in traditional Palestinian territory by means of armed struggle.

In May 1964, on the initiative of the United States, a rival Palestinian organisation, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was set up under the leadership of the demagogic mercenary Ahmad Shuqairi. This served, objectively the interests of the Western imperialists and Israel by putting out statements that its aims were “to drive the Jews into the sea.”

Growing opposition among Palestinians to the policies of the PLO enabled Fatah to join that organisation in February 1969. Becoming by far the largest body in it, Fatah’s policies became the policies of the PLO and its leader, Arafat, became the leader of the PLO.

Arab public opinion forced the rulers of neighbouring Arab states -particularly Jordan and Lebanon – to permit the guerilla units of the PLO to train in and operate from their territory against the Israeli state which occupies Palestine contrary to many UN resolutions. However, their lack of real interest in the formation of an independent Palestinian state, their general subservience to Anglo-American imperialism and their fear of reprisals from the powerful military machine built up by United States imperialism in Israel resulted in efforts by their armed forces to seek to destroy the Palestine Liberation Army within their territories, as was done by Jordan in 1970-71.

The Civil War in Lebanon

By the beginning of the ’70s, the Palestinians in Lebanon were cooperating with the Progressive Socialist Party to mobilise the masses of the Lebanese people for radical political change. Seeing the developing threat to their political and economic power, in April of 1975 the comprador capitalists set their the Phalangist militia to open civil war against the Palestine Liberation Organisation. However, in spite of large-scale aid from Israel, by June of the following year (1976) the position of the Phalangists had become desperate. In these circumstances, 20,000 Syrian troops invaded Lebanon and fought the Palestinian militia alongside the Phalangists.

Despite heroic resistance by the Palestinians, the Phalangists succeeded in smashing their way into the last strongpoint, Beirut, and the civil war, which had lasted a year and seven months and cost 44,000 lives, came to an end in November 1976.

“Operation Litani”

In March 1978, with the aim of destroying the Palestinian bases in south Lebanon, Israeli forces invaded the country and occupied its southern part up to the river Litani.

The Security Council of the United Nations called upon Israel to withdraw its forces, and set up a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to confirm the withdrawal and restore the authority of the Lebanese government in the south. The Israeli forces withdrew back to the frontier in June, but left a Lebanese puppet force, later known as the South Lebanon Army, in occupation of the border area. In April 1979 the leader of this force, Major Sa’ad Haddad, proclaimed the zone an “independent Lebanese state.”

The Effect of Camp David

In September 1978 came the American-sponsored Camp David summit agreement for an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. This agreement was opposed not only by the Palestinians but, as a result of public pressure, by Syria, (now dependent economically and militarily upon the Soviet Union) and this common opposition brought about a reconciliation between the Palestinians and the Syrian occupation forces in Lebanon.
 
In this new situation and with financial help from Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union, the Palestinian para-military units in Lebanon were able to rebuild themselves into a new well-armed force of 15,000 and in January 1980 Syrian forces withdrew from part of Lebanon, handing over control to the PLO, which established its effective control over most of the country except for those areas, such as East Beirut, controlled by the Phalangists.

“Operation Peace for Galilee”

In June 1982 an attempt was made on the life of the Israeli Ambassador in London. On this pretext Israel invaded Lebanon again in an operation called “Operation Peace in Galilee.” This had the aim of destroying completely the Palestine liberation forces in Lebanon (they had, as has been said, been driven from Jordan in 1970-71).

Although Syria had been informed prior to invasion that the operation was not directed at its forces, some conflict with Syrian forces did occur. On the sixth day of the invasion, by which time its armed forces had lost 650 killed and 500 armoured vehicles, Syria signed a cease-fire with Israel.

By this time the invasion forces were 60 miles into Lebanon, laying siege to the Moslem area of West Beirut (where the remains of the PLO forces were bottled up). In August the Palestine Liberation Organisation agreed to withdraw its forces from Lebanon under the supervision of a Multi-national Peace-keeping Force from Britain, France, Italy and the United States. The evacuation was completed by the end of the month, and 11,000 of the PLO’s fighters were dispersed to other Arab states.

In September the new President-elect of Lebanon, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated at unknown hands. The Israeli forces then permitted Phalangists to enter two Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in West Beirut and massacre more than 800 women, old people and children.

The Reagan Plan

In September 1982 US President Ronald Reagan put forward a new “peace plan” for the Middle East which envisaged the establishment of a “Palestinian homeland” on the West Bank of the Jordan, not as an independent state but as a part, with limited powers of self-government, of the state of Jordan, which had been since its inception a monarchist tool of Anglo-American imperialism.

The Reagan Plan was opposed by the right-wing government of Israel, headed by Menahem Begin, on the grounds that it would involve the surrender of Israeli-occupied territory, and by the PLO on the grounds that it did not provide for an independent Palestine state. It was nominally opposed by most Arab states, except for Egypt and Jordan

The Israeli-Lebanese Agreement

The heavy losses sustained by Israel in its invasion of Lebanon (583 killed) – losses which continued to mount daily as a result of Lebanese and Palestinian guerilla warfare against the occupation forces – combined with the obviously aggressive character of the war, had stimulated the growth of a peace movement in Israel itself.

The atrocity against the Palestinian camps brought to a head public opposition to the Israeli invasion, not only in other countries but in Israel itself .

In these circumstances, in May 1983 the United States, Israeli and Lebanese governments signed an agreement providing for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanese soil, combined with the recognition of a “security zone” in the south to prevent the infiltration into the area of Palestinian fighters.

This agreement, supported by Egypt and Jordan, was opposed by the PLO, Libya and Syria, the last-named declaring that its troops would remain in Lebanon. It was also opposed as a treacherous surrender of Lebanese sovereignty to a foreign power by progressive Lebanese political forces, which formed a National Opposition Front (later called the National Democratic Front) headed by Walid Jumblatt of the Progressive Socialist Party and George Hawi of the Communist Party.

In February 1984 President Amin Gemayel (who had taken the place of his assassinated brother) was forced by this pressure to revoke the agreement.

Opposition at home to Israel’s aggressive war in Lebanon was one of the factors responsible for a change of government in the election of July 1984. The ultra-right Likud Front, headed by Menahem Begin, lost its position as the largest parliamentary group to the Alignment, dominated by the Labour Party, which campaigned on withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon and acceptance of the Reagan Plan. Following the withdrawal of the Multi-National Peacekeeping Force, the new government, with a Prime Minister (Shimon Peres) drawn from the Labour Party, unilaterally announced in January 1985 that it would withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and this -was completed-by June – except for the southern zone, where control was handed once again to the puppet South Lebanon Army, headed, since the death of Haddad in January 1984, by Major -General Antoine Lahad.

The Rebellion within the PLO

Although Fatah rejected the Reagan Plan in June 1983, Arafat went to Jordan to discuss its implications with King Hussein and this was used by the Syrian government as a pretext for sponsoring in Lebanon a rebellion of pseudo-left forces within the PLO against its leadership. By December 1983 the rebels had gained control of all PLO bases in Lebanon and the forces loyal to Arafat had been forced to withdraw to other Arab states.

The Syrian Occupation of Beirut

Meanwhile in the capital, Beirut, bloody battles between rival militias, and the siege of the Palestinian refugee camps there, continued and in February 1987 Syria used the pretext of  “the need for law and order” to occupy the capital.

[end MS]

Three Tactics of the Nationalists in the Middle East

nasser109

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

Originally written 1992

Since the end of World War II (WW II), the contradiction between the working classes and the developing capitalist class of the Middle Eastern nations was linked to a second contradiction – that between the different imperialists and the indigenous developing capitalists.  On top of these, there were contradictions between the imperialists themselves, reflecting the decline of British imperialism, and the rise of USA imperialism. After World War II explicit deals took place between the British and US, regarding future developments in the Middle East:

“In response to Winston Churchill’s questions about America’s interests in Iranian oil, Franklin Roosevelt wrote in March 1943 that:

‘I am having the oil studied by the Department of State and my oil experts, but please do accept my assurances that I am not making sheeps’ eyes at your oil fields in Iraq or Iran.’

Churchill responded:

‘Thank you very much for your assurances about no sheeps’ eyes at our oil fields in Iran and Iraq. Let me reciprocate by giving you the fullest assurances that we have not thought of trying to horn in upon your interests or property in Saudi Arabia.'”

James A. Bill “The Eagle and the Lion-The Tragedy of Iranian-American Relations”; New York , 1988. p.29

Unfortunately, with a small working class, the national bourgeoisies largely had no opposition to its leadership over a struggling peasantry. But the national bourgeoisie was also weak, because as the power of imperialism grew, the objective role for the national bourgeoisie was steadily getting smaller. Furthermore the previous history of Oriental Despotism of the Ottomans, had ensured a very weak development of the industrial forces necessary for nation development. Finally the many divisions between factions in the area were skilfully exploited by the imperialists to effectively divide and rule.

ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLES IN COLONIAL COUNTRIES

Imperialism used local indigenous rulers and leading individuals as their surrogates. These indigenous agents were usually buyers and traders whose livelihood depended upon the Imperialists. Often landed feudal gentry were also allied to imperialism. They were termed COMPRADOR BOURGEOISIE.

Inevitably some indigenous capitalists wished to displace imperialism, so that they can then retain all the colony’s profits for itself. They were termed NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE. Because they were usually very weak, they tried to enlist the masses ie. working classes and peasantry. The weak and nascent national bourgeoisie of the Middle East struggled at first, in the main against British and French; then in the main against USA imperialism.

The line of Communists in the National Liberation movement dervies from the positions of Lenin at the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1921. Lenin thought that in the first stage of the revolution, the bourgeois democrats had a useful role to play:

“All the Communist parties must assist the bourgeois democratic liberation movement in these (ie colonial type countries-ed).. The Communist International (CI) must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in colonial and backward countries.”

V.I.Lenin: Preliminary Draft of Theses on National and Colonial Questions, 2nd Congress CI  in “Selected Works”, Volume 10, London, 1946; p. 236-7.

But Lenin and Stalin pointed out, that these national bourgeoisie, flinch from the final steps, as the unleashing of mass movements arouses socialist movements. Therefore, class coalitions of national bourgeoisie with working class organizations can only be temporary. They are also prone to sabotage by the national bourgeoisie. The working class organisations must remain independent, even in a United Front. It is imperative to find and ally only with and for long as, the sections of the bourgeoisie are genuinely in struggle with imperialism:

“I would like to particularly emphasise the question of the bourgeois democratic movements in backward countries. It was this question that gave rise to some disagreement. We argued about whether it would be correct, in principle and in theory, to declare that the CI and the CP’s should support the bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. As a result of this discussion we unanimously decided to speak of the nationalist-revolutionary movements instead of the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ movement. There is not the slightest doubt that every nationalist movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement.. But it was agreed that if we speak about the bourgeois-democratic movement all distinction between reformist and revolutionary movements will be obliterated; whereas in recent times this distinction has been fully and clearly revealed in the backward and colonial countries, of the imperialist bourgeois is trying with all its might to implant the reformist movement also among the oppressed nations.. In the Commission this was proved irrefutably, and we came to the conclusion that the only correct thing to do was to take this distinction into consideration and nearly everywhere to substitute the term “nationalist-revolutionary” for the term “bourgeois-democratic”. The meaning of this change is that we communists should, and will, support bourgeois liberation movements only when these movement do not hinder us in training and organising the peasants and the broad masses of the exploited in a revolutionary spirit.. The above mentioned distinction has now been drawn in all the theses, and I think that, thanks to this, our point of view has been formulated much more precisely.”

Lenin. Report Of Commission on the National and Colonial Questions, Ibid, p 241.

This Leninist line was further developed by Stalin, who in 1925, distinguished “at least three categories of colonial and dependent countries”:

Firstly countries like Morocco who have little or no proletariat, and are industrially quite undeveloped. Secondly countries like China and Egypt which are under-developed industries and have a relatively small proletariat. Thirdly countries like India.. capitalistically more or less developed and have a more or less numerous national proletariat. Clearly all these countries cannot possibly be put on a par with one another.”

J.V.Stalin; “Works” Volume 7: “Political Tasks of the University of the People’s of the East.  Speech Delivered at a meeting of Students of the Communist University of the Toilers of the East”, May 18th, 1925. pp. 148.

In each country the conditions were different and had to be concretely studied before deciding the exact tactic:

“In countries like Egypt and China, where the national bourgeoisie has already split up into a revolutionary party and a compromising party, but where the compromising section of the bourgeoises is not yet able to join up with imperialism, the Communists can no longer set themselves the aim of forming a united national front against imperialism. In such countries the Communists must pass from the policy of a united national front to the policy of a revolutionary bloc of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie. In such countries that bloc can assume the form of a single party, a workers and peasants’ party, provided, however, that this distinctive party actually represents a bloc of two forces – the Communist Party and the party of the revolutionary petty bourgeois. The tasks of this bloc are to expose the half-heartedness and inconsistency of the national bourgeoisie and to wage a determined struggle against imperialism. Such a dual party is necessary and expedient provided it does not bind the Communist Party hand and foot, provided it does not restrict the freedom of the Communist Party to conduct agitation and propaganda work, provided it does not hinder the rallying of the proletarians around and provided it facilitates the actual leadership of the revolutionary movement by the Communist party. Such a dual party is unnecessary and inexpedient if to does not conform to all these conditions for it can only lead to the Communist elements becoming dissolved in the ranks of the bourgeoisie to the Communist Party losing the proletarian army.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 149-150

If a large working class presence was felt, this strengthened the revolutionary prospects. When this happened, the most uncertain and vacillating elements of the bourgeoisie tended to desert the revolution, and form a bloc with imperialism:

“The situation is somewhat different in countries like India. The fundamental and new feature of the conditions of life in countries like India is not only that the national bourgeoisie has split up into a revolutionary part and a compromising part, but primarily that the compromising section of the bourgeoisie has already managed, in the main, to strike a deal with imperialism, Fearing revolution more than it fears imperialism, and concerned with more about its money bags than about the interests of its own country, this section of the bourgeoisie is going over entirely to the camp of the irreconcilable enemies of the revolution, it is forming a bloc with imperialism against the workers and peasants of its own country.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 150.

Such blocs between vacillating “national bourgeoise” and imperialisms, should be smashed:

“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary for the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. In other words, in colonies like India it is a matter of preparing the proletariat for the role of leader of the liberation movement, step by step dislodging the bourgeoisie and its mouthpieces from this honourable post. The task is to create an anti-imperialist bloc and to ensure the hegemony of the proletariat in this bloc. This bloc can assume although it need not always necessarily do so, the form of a single Workers and Peasants Party, formally bound by a single platform. In such centuries the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, for the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 150-151.

But despite these warnings, organisations took part in un-principled coalitions, and led the working classes into massacres. The failure of the working class to organise along correct lines ensured that the many anti-imperialist struggles in the Middle East, never achieved the socialist – or even to the national democratic revolution.

After World War II imperialism was even stronger, and even more rapacious. This was as its markets were threatened by the Socialist USSR leading some European countries towards socialist development. Responding to imperialisms’ demands, the weak national bourgeoisie of the Middle East attempted to overcome their weaknesses by several tactics that would avoid harnessing the revolutionary masses. All these tactics would prove unsuccessful. These are detailed below; and culminated in a movement of cartelisation for oil selling – Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

THE WEAK NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE OF THE MIDDLE EAST TO SEEK TACTICS TO FIGHT IMPERIALISM

Tactic Number One: Wahda and Nasserism, Pan-Arabism; A Political Combination of Weak National Bourgeoisie

Given the bourgeois fear of rousing the working class movement too far, only a vacillating movement against imperialism was possible. Ultimately the national bourgeoisie always capitulated in the face of social revolution. This allowed the imperialist powers to retard the development of the states concerned. Coupled with this was the power of monopoly interests, of the imperialist companies. So that even in favourable situations, where these states led by national bourgeoisie could nationalise the major resource in the area (oil) the imperialist consortiums were able to dictate their demands.

Despite these failures, the nascent bourgeoisie of the area continued to harbour resentment against imperialism. To compensate for their unwillingness to fully enrol the working classes, they attempted to unite across “national” borders. This entailed a mystical PAN-ARABISM which preceded NASSERISM. For example the formation of the BA’TH PARTY in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and also Wahib al-Ghanim.

BA’TH means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement. But it was Gamel Abdul Nasser who most effectively utilised this idea of pan-Arabism. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same.

The Nasserite movement aimed at WAHDA (Arabic for union). It was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.

As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, it aimed to contain the mass movement, it emphasised notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.

Revisionism in the parties of the area had effectively deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.

Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisie against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.

That way it was to be hoped apparently, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie, together, would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.

But ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC- consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.

Tactic Number Two: Playing on Contradictions Between Imperialists

The imperialists had long squabbled amongst themselves as to how to divide up the Middle East. French and British supremacy in the Middle East was surreptiously attacked by USA imperialism. After the death of Stalin the hegemony of revisionism in the USSR was rapidly completed. With the overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union, the relations between the Soviet Union and dependent nations became imperialist. This was exemplified by the relations within the Warsaw Pact nations. In the semi-colonial and colonial nations, the USSR attempted to act as a brake on Western imperialism. This resulted in a struggle between US and Soviet social imperialism for control of these areas, including the Middle East.

In this context, the various timorous struggling national bourgeoisie would frequently switch “temporary masters.” Being interested in control of “their own” profit, the national bourgeoisie were  viewed as unreliable by the imperial super-powers. But they were used as pawns by the super powers to control the area. This allowed the national bourgeoisie some limited bargaining power. Ultimately, his strategy also failed to effect the national revolution.

American policy recognised the strength of the anti-colonial movements. Their plan was to disrupt the movement by using the compradors. To further blunt the movement they used the veneer of neutrality offered by the UNITED NATIONS. John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, said just prior to the Suez War :

“The USA cannot be expected to identify itself 100% either with the Colonial powers or the powers uniquely concerned with the problem of getting independence as rapidly and as fully as possible.. any areas encroaching in some form or another on the problem of so called colonialism find the US playing a somewhat independent role (Ed – of UK and France). The shift from colonialism to independence will be going on for another 50 years, and I believe that the task of the United Nations is to try to see that this process moves forward in a constructive, evolutionary way, and does not come to a halt or go forward through violent revolutionary processes which would be destructive of much good.”

Cited Carlton. “Antony Eden”. London 1981. p.426

After the SUEZ WAR, the USA and the USSR all contended in the area. Each super power developed its’ primary sphere of influence. But since neither power was able to totally control the area, they were for long periods content for an armed stalemate.

The major states in the area that were spheres of influence for the Soviet Union were Iraq, Syria, Egypt (until Nasser’s death), Yemen and Libya.

These countries often adopted a mask of “socialism”.

The main countries that supported the USA were Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and under Sadat – Egypt.

Examples of a national bourgeoisie that attempted the game of playing one imperialist off against another include Egypt under Nasser, Iraq under Hussein and Syria under Assad.

Due to the serious demise of the fortunes of the Soviet imperialists in the late 1980’s, the USA was able to exert a far more dominant role than previously, and for the first time saw an opportunity to be unopposed. It tested the waters for an exertion of its’ direct military presence in the Arab world by bombing Libya.

EGYPT, AND THE “FREE OFFICERS MOVEMENT”

The case of Egypt illustrates how a balancing act, was able to win a short term gain, for the nationalist bourgeoisie. But ultimately the short term gains could not be maintained. In Egypt the nationalist faction was represented by the Free Officer Movement, to which Nasser belonged. This movement, was supported initially by the USA, as a weapon to be used against the British superpower.

“The Free Officer movement originated within the regular army; its leaders were then preparing to oust the appointed military chiefs, seize all the command posts and present their program for national renovation to the entire army. They also tried to make sure that should they be successful, the US ambassador would not be hostile and would exert pressure on the British ambassador.”

Mahmoud Hussein . “Class Conflict in Egypt 1945-1970″. London , 1977. p.85-6 .

“The US hoped to capitalize on the situation to become the new protector of Egypt and force it to accept a military alliance which would officially recognize the need for national sovereignty.”

M.Hussein , Ibid. p.96.

“According to Miles Copeland, an American CIA official posted in the Middle East in the 1950’s – the CIA knew as early as March 1952 that a ‘secret military society’ was plotting a coup. ‘ Before the coup the CIA’s Cairo station, headed by Kermit Roosevelt, had three meetings with some of the officers of the group. ” the large area of agreement reached by Roosevelt and this (Egyptian ) officer, speaking for Nasser himself, is noteworthy,” writes Copeland.”

Dilip Hiro “Inside the Middle East” London. 1982. p. 297.

The aims of the Free Officer movement were to modernise and develop, and to get rid of the British military occupation of Egypt. Of course, even the first goal was unacceptable to either the British, or to those who immediately took their place, the USA imperialists. But for their own short term goals – to get rid of the British – the USA did help the Free Officers, by forcing the British to evacuate their 70,000 strong troops. However, in partial appeasement of the British, Eisenhower ensured a clause in the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement that entitled Britain to reoccupy the Suez zone with “Egypt’s agreement” in the case of an attack on Egypt by any outside power.”   (Hiro Ibid p.298.)

Nasser tried to exploit the tensions between the British and the Americans, and at the same time get maximal financial aid. Nasser from then on used both the US and UK imperialists for financing. But to retain his independence and to get the “best deal”, Nasser then also asked for financing from the revisionist USSR. Even the provision of USSR made arms via Czechoslovakia, did not however deter the West:

“Not wishing to alienate the charismatic leader of Egypt, a most strategic country in the region, Washington and London continued discussions with Cairo on financing the Aswan Dam- with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank) offering credits for $ 200 million and America and Britain together another $70 million in hard currencies- matching $900 million to be provided by Egypt in local services and goods. An agreement was signed in February.”

Hiro Ibid p.298.

However, the Western imperialists certainly feared that Egypt was becoming drawn into the USSR sphere of influence. This was a more urgent fear for the weaker British, than it was for the USA. So the British exerted a considerable pressure on the USA, to tangibly support an anti-Russian policy. This pressure came from Antony Eden, then the Conservative Prime Minister of Britain. Winston Aldrich, the US ambassador to London said:

“Eden.. asked me to see him on a matter of the greatest importance and urgency. Eden told me that the emergency has arisen in connection with the Egyptian proposal, namely that the Russians had offered to finance the dam. Eden feared that this would give the Egyptians a dangerous foothold in an area vital to the interests of Great Britain. He asked me to take up at once with Washington the question of whether the US would underwrite the obligations which Great Britain would assume in making such a guarantee (of financing the dam).”

Cited David Carlton “Antony Eden” London 1981 p.391.

Eisenhower was more shrewd, and being the more dominant of the imperialists, was in less need of hasty action. His diary showed that he had already recognised that this was a doomed policy. He had concluded that Egypt was moving away from the likely control of the USA, and that the Saudis should be firmly lassoed into the USA sphere:

“We have reached the point where it looks as if Egypt, under Nasser is going to make no move.. the Arabs (ie Egypt – Ed) absorbing major consignments of arms from the Soviets are daily growing more arrogant and disregarding the interests of Western Europe and the US.. It would appear that our efforts should be directed towards separating the Saudi Arabians from the Egyptians and concentrating, for the moment..in making the former see that their best interests lie with us, and not with the Egyptians and with the Russians..”

D. Eisenhower , Diary , Cited by David Carlton Ibid p. 404.

Of course each of the imperialists were fully aware that they were being “two-timed.”

Nasser was forced to keep trying to find yet another “imperialist” or social-imperialist dancer, to help him fend off the last ardent suitor.

Nasser finally overstepped the lines, by recognising the People’s Republic of China in May. By the 20 th July, both the USA and the British rescinded their offers of financial aid. This prompted Nasser to attempt a retaliation, by nationalising the Suez Canal (Hiro Ibid. p.64). Naturally this provoked a loud uproar from the French owners (Universal Suez Maritime Canal Company), and at the same time, the British and Israelis.

These powers had already been planning an attack upon Gaza aiming at taking the Suez Canal. But for their own interests, these moves were not supported by the USA, who according to Eden himself were verbally offering him merely:

“Moral support and sympathy”, and “did not want to know the details of the Anglo-French plans.”

Cited Carlton , Ibid . p. 412.

However, attempting to assert Britain’s “rights” or self-interest, Eden  deliberately misled the USA about Britain’s aggressive intentions. Eisenhower had expressly warned Eden against war, writing to Eden that:

“The use of military force against Egypt under present circumstances might have consequences even more serious than causing the Arabs to support Nasser. It might cause a serious misunderstanding between our two countries.. the most significant public opinion is that..the United Nations was formed to prevent this very thing.. I assure you that we are not blind to the fact that eventually there may be no escape for the use of force.”

Carlton Ibid. p.419-20.

But in spite of this warning from the USA, the war was launched. But the revisionist USSR, correctly strongly condemned the war of aggression launched by Britain, France and Israel. In order to finally seize the Middle East away from British imperialism, the USA at the United Nations, also strongly condemned the invasion and called for a cease fire. Behind closed doors, the USA prompted a currency speculation against sterling, by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank selling, and also refused to give either IMF or direct USA financial aid, to the United Kingdom. Further, and finally, the USSR threatened to enter the war:

“We are fully determined to use force to crush the aggressors and to restore peace in the Middle East.”

V.Trukhanovsky. ” Antony Eden ”  Moscow, 1974; p.332.

These moves combined to ensure the withdrawal of the 3 nation intervention. This fiasco for British and French imperialism, signalled their final retreat from the Middle East, as imperialist forces independent of the USA. America then was able to fill what Eisenhower described as a “vacuum” in the Middle East.

Eisenhower’s Doctrine promised to aid any Middle Eastern state seeking protection against:

“Overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism.”

Cited Hiro p.299

This blocked any moves to a regional Wahda, or Unity attempts. Yet, it was sufficiently elastic to interpretation to be acceptable, whilst still detering Egypt in particular. The Eisenhower Doctrine:

“Was applied 3 times: to solve the internal crisis of Jordan in April 1957, to pressure the nationalists – leftist regime of Syria.. and to provide troops to Lebanon in July 1958..In the case of Jordan and Lebanon, the American move was made to check the rise of the Nasserite forces there.”

Hiro, Ibid  p. 299.

Therefore, despite the early hopes of the Nasser forces in Egypt, they were checked. Egypt now became compradors for the USSR. The USA imperialists, who having just expelled the USA and France, did not have the necessary energy at that moment to expel Russia also. The economic relations between Egypt and Russia, were thereafter classic imperialist relations, raw goods given by Egypt, cotton – in return for finished goods, for military and economic aid. This dictated a colonial type relationship with the USSR (Hussein. Ibid. p.286).

But to counter the threat of “excess” USSR influence, the USA unleashed war. The USA moved vigorously, through their client states in the area, wishing also to check those various national bourgeoisie. As part of this policy, the USA heavily endorsed the Israelis, as their lynch pin in the area. The revisionist USSR, sought to maximise its own “area of influence”, and acted as a countervail in the cases of Syria and Egypt. But Israel was heavily armed by the USA and Britain.

In response, Egypt and Syria, signed a joint defence treaty fearing Israeli attack.

They were quite right to fear this.

When King Hussein of Jordan joined the Egyptian-Syrian Defence Pact on 30 May, Dean Rusk then American Secretary of State clearly signalled war:

“I don’t think it’s our business to restrain anybody.”

(Cited Hiro p.301).

The USA knew what was to be the likely outcome of such a war.

As President Johnson put it to an aide:

“Israel is going to hit them (the Arabs)..” Whilst (he was ) publicly responding positively to a Soviet appeal the next day for restraint.”

Cited by Hiro p.300.

The Israelis following the USA plan, launched a pre-emptive strike on the eve of a peace mission by the Egyptian Vice-President Zakaria Mohieddin. Nasser’s forces were effectively crushed.

This sealed the future role as to who would be the key agent of the USA in the area – Israel.

TACTIC NUMBER THREE: ECONOMIC COMBINATION. OPEC- A WEAK BOURGEOISIE ATTEMPTS TO FIGHT BACK

The creation of OPEC in 1960 was another attempt by the weak indecisive national bourgeois to find a “Third Way”. One that did not rely on the active involvement of the masses, nor one of total capitulation to the imperialists. OPEC attempted to bargain, or to horse trade; by forming a combination, or a cartel.

This was designed to deal with the cartel of the major Oil companies- the Seven Sisters. These had simply to refuse to buy oil from any producer country that challenged the price offered. The price “posted” was agreed to by the Seven Sisters. Even nationalisation could not help if the producer country could not market the oil. This tactic was used viciously against Iran.

The oil producing nations varied in the intensity with which they fought the Seven Sisters and the imperialist nations. In 1960 one of the weakest was Iran, ruled by the Shah Pahvlavi whose compliance to the USA was assured following CIA intervention in 1951. This had been necessary to prevent the nationalist Muhammed Mussadiq effecting nationalisation of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AICO) later the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Musaddiq believed that:

“The Iranian must administer his own house.”

Cited J.A.Bill ” The Eagle and the Lion”; Ibid; New York 1988 p.56.

But in fact, Mussadiq clearly was not a fully committed nationalist. The mass movement was compelling him to go further than he perhaps would have otherwise. As John Foster Dulles said in February 1953:

“Musaddiq could not afford to reach any agreement with the British lest it cost him his political life.”

J.A.Bill, Ibid p. 78

When he became Prime Minister of the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) in April 1951, he inherited a Bill that nationalised AICO. Refusing to rescind it, he was held to ransom by AICO which refused to allow Iran to sell its oil on the international market:

“This boycott was effective. Iran’s oil export income dropped from more than $400 million in 1950 to less than $2 million in the 2 year period from July 1951 to August 1953..Musaddiq faced a deteriorating economic and political situation in 1953..and was forced to rely on the radical left and the communist ( revisionist -ed) Tudeh party.. On May 28th Musaddiq wrote to President Eisenhower requesting economic aid..the answer was negative.”

J.A.Bill Ibid; p.66-7.

The British then persuaded the USA to participate in a putsch, termed Operation Boot by the British and Ajax by the US. The Chief British operative, Major C.M.Woodhouse was conscious of difficulties in getting the US to take part:

“Not wishing to be accused of trying to use the Americans to pull British chestnuts out of the fire, I decided to emphasis the Communist threat to Iran rather than to need to recover control of the oil industry. I argued that even if a settlement of the oil dispute could be negotiated with Musaddiq, which was doubtful, he was still incapable of resisting a coup by the Tudeh party, if it were backed by Soviet support. Therefore he must be removed.”

J.A.Bill, Cited, Ibid. p.86

Fully involved in the putsch was General Norman Schwarzkopf, former US adviser to the Iranian Gendarmerie (J.A.Bill. Ibid, p.90). He was the father of the US General – “Storming Norman” – in the 1991 USA Gulf War of aggression (See Alliance 2).

The coup resulted in the Shah of Iran being bought back to Iran. He understood who had placed him on the Peacock Throne, and remained indebted to US imperialism. Musaddiq was treated with relative leniency – he was not killed, but after 3 years in jail, was allowed to return to his home village Ahmadabad under house arrest (J.A.Bill Ibid p.101).

This episode influenced tactics in the Middle East for some years. The national bourgeoisie had been warned that nationalisation was not adequate to ensure marketing of the oil from the producer nations without the cooperation of the Seven Sisters. An alternative strategy was needed.

The CARTEL STRATEGY was first proposed by the national bourgeoisie of VENEZUELA, after the successful military led coup of 1948. This coup was precipitated 12 days following an act which imposed 50-50 split of the profits from oil, between Venezuela and the oil companies. After the coup, the new dictatorship, naturally, favoured the interests of the US imperialists, and it now dispensed new major oil concessions to the Oil companies.

Despite this failure, the 50-50 rule became a standard, in any dealings with oil-exporting nations. For instance Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company ) used this formula in Saudi Arabia in 1950  (J.A.Bill, op cit, p. 61). However even this partial retreat, still left considerable super-profits for the Seven Sisters.

The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela recognised, that a key factor in their defeat during prolonged negotiations with the companies, had been the erosion of Venezuela’s selling power by Middle East countries that could produce oil. Oil companies, when they were faced with demands for a fairer distribution of profit, simply expanded production from the Middle East. The leader of the “horse trading” strategy, Perez Alfonzo had:

“Only envisaged an ‘extent ‘ an ‘arrangement’ between a few producing countries to establish, links of solidarity between them, reduce the oil companies capacity for manoeuvring and prevent them from playing one country off against another.”

Statement in Petroleum Weekly, New York May 1 1959 p.19. Cited by Pierre Terzian; “OPEC : the inside story.” London 1985.

The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela returned to power in 1959 and again took up the cause of combination. Now they had significant support in the Middle East, from the Director of the Permanent Oil Bureau, Mohammed Salman of Iraq. The Permanent Oil Bureau had been set up by the Arab League in 1953. A secret agreement known as the Maadi Pact was concluded at the first Oil Arab Congress in Cairo on 16th April 1959. The reaction to the open Congress session, was frankly sceptical by the oil business:

“Venezuelan delegates arrived with high hopes of lining up Middle East producing states in a front to limit production and prevent further decline in prices, but were finally resigned to the fact that Arabs were more interested in other problems now and that all Venezuelans were supposed to do was to observe.”

Platts Oilgram News, New York; Cited by P.Terzian, Ibid, p.25.

However the secret Maadi Agreement between the UAR, Iraq, Venezuela, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia included the following:

“Agreement was reached … on:

1. Improvement of the oil producing countries participation on a reasonable and equitable basis. The consensus of opinion was that said government should tend to at least a 60-40 formula to be on a par with the recent Venezuelan attitude..and with other countries ..the price structure should be..maintained..any change in prices should be discussed with precedent in time and be approved by all parties concerned.

2. Convenience of arriving at an integration of the oil industry..to ensure stable markets to the producer countries avoiding transfers of gains from one phase of the operations to another, affecting the oil revenue of the governments.

4. Establishment of National Oil Companies that would operate side by side with the existing private companies.”

P.Teerzian. Ibid , p.27-8.

The most energetic of the group, Perez Alfonso, also arranged that the USSR would support the OPEC move. This was important because the Oil companies were constantly citing:

“The USSR’s tariff policy as a pretext to justify their own decision to cut prices.”

P.Terzian, Ibid, p.34.

After initial disbelief, the major oil companies, led by Shell, tested the OPEC resistance, by announcing cuts in the posted prices of oil that they were prepared to pay. The vigorous resistance they met, along with announcements of a meeting of producer nations at Baghdad in September, 1960, induced them to withdraw their price cuts. The Financial Times concluded:

“In effect Shell is.. paying a premium to the Governments of the producing states. What the countries particularly objected to was the fact that they were not consulted.”

Cited, Terzian. Ibid. p.53.

However efforts to involve the Middle East nations in effective combative combination were doomed to failure. This was evident, since combination had to involve both:

Countries that were ruled by comprador bourgeoisie ( eg Saudi Arabia and Iran );

as well as the countries that were ruled by national bourgeoisie (eg Iraq).

The Baghdad Meeting in September 10th 1960 started off very tensely. The Venezuelan nationalists were in the midst of fending off a coup at home. Even more dramatic was the fact that the Iraqi nationalists President Kassem was also besieged by a coup. He arrived for an honourary dinner wearing two revolvers in his belt! But tension rose even further, as it was clear that Iran was going to block any agreements, that would go further than the agreement already reached at Maadi. The Iranian representative Fuad Ruhani said he had been given:

“Very precise instructions from my Government.”

Terzani , Ibid. p.41.

Suddenly on 14th September the Shah sent new instructions to the Iranian team. This agreed to the creation of a permanent organisation. Moreover, the Shah even had a name for it – The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC ).

But this about face indicated a new tack on the part of the Oil Companies.

They now accepted the inevitability of the cartel, but they emasculated it from within.

OPEC was therefore hijacked.

As Perez Alfonso found when he met the directors of the Seven Sisters :

“My impression is that the main companies recognise that the Baghdad Agreement was necessary, or at least inevitable.”

Ibid p.44.

Theoretically the OPEC countries were in a very strong position controlling 82 % of world crude exports. But The Times could accurately see the situation :

“The strength of these producing countries is not as great as might appear.. (There are) two reasons.. the surplus of supply over demand in the world oil market and the divergent interests of the 5 countries concerned, some of who wanted to increase production whilst other sought a reduction.”

The Times 15 September, 1960. Cited by Terzian p.44.

  • Of course, in addition the oil imperialist companies and their nations had the marketing and distribution monopoly.
  • Also they began to exploit other sources of oil.
  • The comprador states were key to the strategy of the oil companies.
  • Saudi Arabia was and is a reactionary state with strong elements of Muslim feudalism.
  • It is a key state representing USA interests in the Middle East.
  • As the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources commented:

“The US, by virtue of its commercial oil interests ‘ long standing monopoly over the disposition of Saudi crude, now reinforced by the 1974 conclusion of a “special relationship” embracing economic and military agreements, is very widely regarded amongst its allies and by Arab and Iranians as having secured preferential and near- exclusive access to Saudi oil. Given the extraordinary importance of Saudi oil production to the world generally, the US relationship is considered key to supply security.”

US Senate : ” Access to oil – the USA relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran.” Washington DC US Government Printing office , Publication No. 95-70. 1977 (p.xi). Cited by Petter Nore and Terisa Turner in : Oil and the class struggle “. London 1980

At critical times the Saudis have refused to allow the OPEC to raise prices in accordance with the demands of the more nationalistic of the OPEC countries such as Iraq and Libya. Saudi Crown Prince Fadh has pretentiously revealed his unwillingness to be an effective member of the cartel:

“My country which possesses the largest oil reserves in the world will not be the cause of a weakening in the capacity of humanity to live in stability and prosperity. In view of this lofty aim, commercial considerations cease to exist and consequently the methods which are used to increase or lower prices will likewise disappear.”

Frankfurter Rundschau. 1 April 1975. Cited by Mohssen Massarrat. The Energy Crisis p.67. in ” Oil and the class struggle” Ed. P.Nore and T.Turner. London, 1981

It is not surprising that:

“Saudi foreign policy consists largely of support for Washington in the Middle East.”

Sunday Times, 5th August 1990. p.12.

Nor is it surprising that given the membership of nations like Saudi Arabia in OPEC, that OPEC would not reflect the interests of the oil producing national bourgeoisie.

As Henry Kissinger commented:

“OPEC was not perceived as a serious cartel.”

Jack Anderson and James Boyd. ” Fiasco. The real story behind the disastrous worldwide energy crisis- Richard Nixon’s “Oilgate”;1983; Toronto;  p.163.

In fact as, the manufactured oil crisis of the 1970’s shows, OPEC was transformed into an agency that performed objectively in the interests of the USA imperialists.

THE PSEUDO OIL “CRISIS” OF THE 1970’s

It is widely believed that it was the pressure of the OPEC countries that led to a dramatic price rise and so called ” oil crisis ‘in the 1970’s. Certainly determined nationalist countries like Libya and Algeria increased the pressure inside OPEC for a price rise.

Though the oil exporting countries had their interest in a price rise, their effectiveness as a cartel has already been shown to be limited, due to the inclusion of “weak” member state such a Saudi Arabia. In reality, the manipulation of oil prices has followed the various requirements of the Seven Sisters, the minor oil companies and the USA monopoly capitalists.

“For the oil companies an increase in the general price of oil was also of great importance, not least because they had seen their distributional share steadily diminish over time..as a result of higher level of taxation by the oil-exporting countries..which was difficult to pass on to the consumer in a situation characterised by a global excess supply.”

Petter Nore and Terisa Turner, Editors;.”Oil and the class struggle”; London 1980, p.72.

The problems of the Major Seven Sisters, were compounded by the competition they now faced:

“Due to a three fold challenge.. the rise of the independents following the US import quota system in 1958; the emergence of important state oil companies in Europe like Italy’s E.N.I. which tried to outbid the concessions offered by the majors; and the increase in Soviet oil exports to the West.. resulting in a drop in the profit per barrel for the Majors. The reduction was only partly overcome by a sharp increase in total production. Profit rates for US direct foreign investment in the petroleum industry dropped from a 30 % return in 1955 to 14.7 % in 1963 and an all time low of 11.1 % in 1969.”

Nore; p.72 Ibid.

Added to this was the high cost of extraction from areas such as Alaska and the North Sea. This posed a problem for the major Oil companies. The oil crisis was “manufactured”, to raise the available oil profits, up to a point where it would become economically viable to begin extraction from the oil shales of the USA. This entailed the profit interests of both the major oil companies and their smaller rivals who were not in the cartel known as the Seven Sisters.

At this time despite the apparent oil shortage, the oil companies had stocked up supplies, in many tankers that lay outside New Jersey in the midst of the so called shortage as prices were driven up by the companies.

This tactic was portrayed as the work of the OPEC cartel.

But the general line was clearly supported by the oil companies :

“Though the oil companies created the appearances of fighting OPEC tooth and nail..they recognised that their best hopes of future profitability..depended upon successful cooperation..thus OPEC/oil companies cooperation became a fact of life..with the positive encouragement of the USA.”

P.R.Odell. “Oil and World power” London , 1980. p. 215.

But the USA Government representing the combined monopoly capital had its’ own reasons for seeing a price rise:

“From 1970 onwards the US clearly pressed for an increase in the general price of crude oil.”

Nore, Ibid, p.73.

THE USA INTERESTS IN THE RAISING THE PRICE OF OIL REVOLVED AROUND THREE MAIN ISSUES

Firstly, both the leading sections of American capital had major profit interests tied up in raising the price of oil. The big Northern Yankee financiers were involved with the oil Major Seven Sisters companies. The Cowboys who represented newer capital reliant on oil and arms, formed the smaller independent oil companies.

Secondly, the USA wanted to ensure a renewed attempt at peace – on their terms of an acceptable status quo to them – in the Middle East:

“The USA.. sought to provide stability..as basis for a renewed effort to find a political solution to the Middle East conflict, and argued that higher revenues and a greater degree of economic certainty for the Arab oil-producing nations would, make it easier for them, to accept a compromise in the their dispute with Israel.”

Odell , Ibid , p. 215.

But Thirdly this manoeuvre was also aimed at the competitors of American imperialism as recognised by the Economist:

“The Economist 7th July, 1973; under the title ” The Phoney oil crisis “voiced the suspicion that the US had capitulated only to readily to the OPEC demands for an increase in oil prices because such an increase would slow down the Japanese economy. Japanese exports were out-competing American demands at the time and its economy was more vulnerable to rises in the price of oil than any other nation.”

Cited by Petter Nore p.86; ” Oil and the Class struggle .” London, 1980.

As Odell points out:

“The USA was fed up with a situation in which the rest of the industrialised world had access to cheap energy. It deliberately initiated a foreign policy which aimed at getting oil – producing nations’ revenues moving strongly up by talking incessantly to the producers about their low oil prices and by showing them the favourable impact of much higher prices. It was of course assured..that these cost increases, plus further increases designed to ensure higher profit levels for the companies, were passed on to the European and Japanese energy consumers, so eliminating their energy cost advantage over their competitors in the USA..the actual timing..coincided with unusual circumstances..namely a strong demand for most oil products in most markets in a period of general economic advance, a shortage of oil refinery capacity in Europe and Japan and a temporary scarcity of tankers.”

Odell p. 215-216.

GERMAN INDUSTRY HAD ALREADY CAUSED PROBLEMS FOR THE MAJOR COMPANIES BY FLIRTING WITH THE RUSSIANS. USA GOVERNMENT PRESSURE HAD BEEN REQUIRED TO PREVENT FURTHER EROSION OF THE EUROPEAN MARKETS:

“In 1969 only the intervention of the Federal West German Government under severe pressure from the USA, thwarted an agreement between the Soviet Union and the Bavarian state government. Had this agreement gone through, the Soviet Union would have been in a very strong position to put in branch pipelines to the other countries..of Western Europe.. Soviet oil exports to Western Europe.. steadily increased form only 3 million ton in 1955 to over 40 million ton in 1969.. Under 1978 conditions the amount of oil in Western Europe is supply rather than demand constrained.”

Odell, Ibid; p.58-60.

In this context, in 1991, it was of significant aid to the USA imperialists that the USSR was then, unable to exploit its’ oil reserves, owing to the enormous dislocation in the state:

“Production from Siberian oil fields is dropping so rapidly that the Soviet Union, the world’s largest petroleum producer may begin to import expensive world price crude within 2 years Kremlin officials say..”We are talking catastrophic failure here ” one Western diplomatic observer said.. oil exports have been the Soviet Unions’ primary source of hard currency income, and the only bright spot..in trade,..the troubles appear to be related to a decaying infrastructure, including an inefficient distribution system vulnerable to sabotage. Production from the giant Tyumen oil filed of Western Siberia, which supplies about half of the country’s oil for export has dropped 10% since 1988, Pravda said ..former allies in Central and Eastern Europe are being hit the hardest with cuts of 30-50 %. The cuts, coupled with the significantly higher prices Moscow began charging Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia on January 1st are hobbling economic reforms in these countries.”

Jeff Sallot; In “Globe and Mail”; Toronto; Business Report; Feb 12th 1991.

The USA Senate recognised the oil demand in Europe and Japan as a vital issue for the general policy to be followed by the USA in the Middle East:

“One can argue that while the oil benefit is nowhere near so great to the US as it is to the European and Japanese importers, for which it is vital, the US relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia serves the collective security interests of its allies in helping assure a continuous and adequate flow of oil.. But.. will the US government come to affect the destination of these 7 million barrels per day, exercising its influence through the Americans oil companies? Or will the companies be able to continue to supply, unhampered by considerations other than the meeting of their contractual commitments?”

US Senate Cited by P.Noore and T. Turner, Ibid p. 9.

THIS OIL SAGA WILL BE BROUGHT UP TO DATE SHORTLY

The Syrian National Revolution – The Role of Khaled Bakdash or “Bagdash”

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This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

December 2002; based on an article of 1996

Contents:
Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East
(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion
(ii) Early History of Syria to the Ottoman Empire
(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and the French Colonial Yoke
(iv) The Post-Independence Economy
(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?
(vi) The Ba’th Party and the Ba’th Arab Socialist Party
(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism
(viii) The Syrian Communist Party
(ix) The Syrian CP, the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic
(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists

Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East

As Comrade Bland pointed out in his analysis of Sultan-Galiyev, the dubious attractions of “Muslim Nationalism,” were a pit-fall for communists in Muslim dominated countries. Bakdash – from his initial revolutionary phase to his later revisionist phases, was closely involved with the question of the relationship between bourgeois nationalism in the Middle East, and communism.

The English historian Patrick Seale writes:

“The prophet of Syrian (In fact “greater Syrian” ) nationalism was Antun Sa’ada… His bitterest opponent was the Communist leader Khalid Bakdash, an eloquent Kurd who had steered the chequered fortunes of the Syrian party since 1930.”

Seale, Patrick, “Asad. The Struggle For the Middle East”; London; 1988; p.26.

However, Marxist-Leninists examining Bakdash’s views, would have to concede that he was the engineer of the revisionist disembowelment of the most advanced Arab communist party.

Sa’da was the founder of the Syrian National Party, and represented the regional Syrian based bourgeoisie who wanted an undivided Greater Syria, rather than the more ambitious Pan-Arabists.

“Pan-Arabism” swept the Middle East, partly in response to the rising Zionist tide. As early as June 1913, the First Arab Congress was held in Paris (Walter Laquer “A History of Zionism”; New York; 1972; p.224). Later at the Pan Arab Congress of Jerusalem December, 1931, held simultaneously with the General Islamic Congress, an ‘Arab Covenant‘ was proclaimed. Hourani uses this as a “standard definition of the aims of the nationalists”:

“(i) The Arab lands are a complete and indivisible whole, and the divisions of whatever nature to which they have been subjected are not approved or recognized by the Arab nation.
(ii) All efforts in every Arab country are to be directed towards the single goal of their complete independence, in their entirety and unified ; and every idea which aims at limitation to work for local and regional politics must be fought against.
(iii) Since colonization is, in all its forms and manifestations, wholly incompatible with the dignity and highest aims of the Arab nation, the Arab nation rejects it and will combat it with all its forces.”

Hourani A.K. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; London 1968; p. 114.

The main tenets of this proclamation were to live on, in the form of the Ba’th Party, and in Nasserism and the Wahd movement. An increasingly urgent problem played a role in side-tracking the main goal of Arab liberation. This was the Zionist presence in Palestine. In September, 1937, the Pan-Arab Congress of Bludan in Syria, organized by the Syrian Committee for the Defence of Palestine, which passed:

“a number of resolutions in regard to the solution of the Palestinian problem and stated that the adoption of the policy embodied in these resolutions would be regarded as a condition of friendly relations between the Arab peoples and the British Empire”

Hourani Ibid; p.114-5.

However the establishment of the state of Israel continued a destruction of bourgeois nationalist dreams. It became increasingly likely that only lesser goals would be achieved. This article examines the narrowing focus of Arab nationalism, as it played out in Syria.

Following the enforced departure of France as an overt occupying imperialist presence in 1946, the French adopted a pattern of disguised neo-colonial relations. France took over Syria at a time when the British dominance over the Middle East was adequate to push France into a subordinate imperialist position, while Britain waited to see how it would fight off the USA interests in the area.

(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion

The ancient idea of a ‘bilad al-Sham’ – The “Lands of Damascus”, was built on the premise  that there was a distinct Syrian entity. The so-called “Natural Syria” was vast – extending from Taurus mountains in the North, to the Western Mediterranean shores, the Eastern Euphrates, and the Arabian Southern deserts. As such, it was frequently divided up during the centuries.

Later, Syria was known under the French Mandate rule, as both Syria and Lebanon being part of one administrative area (with Latakia and Jebel Druze) from 1925 to 1936. Syria as a term, refers to the Syrian Republic formed in 1936, from Syria, Jebel Druze and Laakia (also known as the State of the Alawis).

Syria ranks fourth in population in the 15 countries usually considered to be a part of the “Middle East” extending between Libya and Afghanistan (excluding these two countries); eighth in gross domestic product, fourth in size of military force, and sixth in rate of growth of GDP. (Ramet, Pedro “The Soviet-Syrian Relationship Since 1955- A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder USA; 1990; p. 6).

The population is largely of the Muslim religious faith, and Arab speakers formed 85% of the population in 1946.  Although a Christian Maronite minority (taking its name from a 5th Century Syrian hermit) was always significant in number, as were other minorities. The population by the time of the French Mandate 1920-1946 was made up of:

Sunnis (60% of the total population); ‘Alawis 11.5%; Druze 3.0 %; Ismaílis 1.5%; Christians 9.9%; Non-Arabs (Kurds 8.5%; Armenians 4.2%; plus small numbers of Circassians and Jews etc; (See Malik Mufti: “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p.45).

When Mohammed died (632 BC), as the head – supposedly appointed by God – of both temporal and religious parts of the Muslim world, a crisis of leadership was precipitated. This engulfed all the expansionist desert Arabs who had embraced Islam. They solved it be appointing a temporal and religious head of the Muslim world, as a “deputy” – the Caliph, or Khalif:

“Islam as an expansionist ideology began during the lifetime of Mohamed, who made several unimportant expeditions outside the desert of the Arabian peninsula, The real expansion and invasions were to come after the death of Mohammed from the caliphs, or his “representatives”, the heads of or leaders of Moslem communities.”

“Hoxha Enver, “The Glorious past of Peoples Cannot be Ignored”; Written 1983; In “Reflections On the Middle East”; Tirana 1984; Toronto N.D.; p. 469.

“The death of Mohammed … (led to).. a constitutional crisis… The crisis was met by the resolute action of three men: Abu Bakr, Úmar, and Abu Ubaida who by a kind of coup d’état imposed Abu Bakr on the community as the sole successor of the prophet… with the title of Khalifa or “Deputy,” and his election marks the inauguration of the great historic institution of the Caliphate”

Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 50-1.

Sunni are adherents of the sunnah (practice) of Mohammed alone whose sayings (hadith) form the Holy Words. They are the largest grouping of Muslims, and are themselves divided into sects. The most important of these is the Wahhabi sect largely based in Central Arabia, and headed by the Ibn-Saud dynasty of what is now Saudi Arabia. The Wahabis are named after a jurist of the area of Najd, called Ábd al-Wahhab (1703-1791). During the period of Ottoman expansion, he founded a sect that:

“Was based on a rigid anti-mystical Puritanism. In the name of a pure primitive Islam of the first entry he denounced all subsequent accretions of belief and ritual as superstitious innovation,” alien to pure Islam. … The conversion to the Wahhabi doctrine of the Najdi emir Muhammed ibn Su-ud gave the sect a military and political focus.. spreading by conquest over most of central Arabia wresting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina from the Sharifs who ruled them in the Ottoman name… (till-Ed) 1918, when an invading Turco-Egyptian army sent by Muhammad Ali the pasha of Egypt broke the power of the Wahhabi Empire and confined them to its native Najd”

Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 161.

The ‘Alawis [meaning followers of ‘Ali] are members of the Shi’i  (Or Shi’ia) Muslim sect; as indeed are the Druzes (originating from Egypt) and the Isma’ilis. The Shi’ia trace their roots to the 8th century, when ‘Ali the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law – was – as the claim goes –  robbed of his inheritance by the first three Caliphs. The Shi’ites also claim that ‘Ali was granted a divine essence, making them ‘infidels’ to the Sunni Muslim orthodoxy. The materialist reality underlying the Shiía sect was a factional grouping based on the claims of Ali to the Caliphate.

In present day Syria, the Alawi are concentrated in the mountainous areas. Previously, they tended to be dominated by the Sunni or the Christian-Maronites.

The various divisions of sects played a role in preventing a united ‘national’ identity. Colonising powers used the minorities in a divide and rule strategy. The Sunnis were closely linked to the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire, and oppressed the ‘Alawis and the other minorities. The French reversed the preferences:

“In Turkish times the Sunni Muslim had been the privileged community, growing rich on ‘Alawi labour….(who) could be expected to be ground down by the Sunni or Christian merchant, money-lender or landowner….But….in the early 1920’s the French gave the ‘Alawi privileges….”

Seale P: “Asad – The Struggle for the Middle East”; Ibid; p.17.

“France tried to pit all of Syria’s minority communities against the Sunni Arabs, who constituted the core of its traditional political elites;”

Malik Mufti; “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p. 45.

(ii) Early History of Syria – To the Ottoman Empire

Being at the intersection of the Mediterranean and India and the Far East – Syria was always subject to international influences and trade. Its peoples were initially Arabs from the South, who brought with them Semitic influence – but they then intermingled with invaders from central Asia and Anatolia (Hourani A.H.: “Syria & Lebanon- A Political Essay”; London 1968; pp.11-13).

Historic Syria was dominated first by the Semitic tribes such as the Phoenicians. Later waves of invaders included the Egyptians, Assyrians, the Hittites, Persians, under Alexander the Great – the Greeks and later by the First Century BC – the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire introduced Christianity. But Christianity gave way to Islam in Syria, during the course of the Persian-Roman wars in the 3rd Century AD.

Although the Byzantine Empire tried to hold onto Syrian territories, by 633 the Arabs from the Egyptian peninsula took it by war. A Moslem Government was established. It became a central part of the Moslem empire, under the Umayyad Caliphate of Mu’awiya in 661. Till the 8th century, the Caliphate territories extended from Spain to Morocco to Central Asia. As the Abbassi Dynasty took control of Syria, its fortunes waned under the pressure of repeated wars with the Byzantine Empire.

Ultimately this allowed the Mameluke Sultans of Egypt – led initially by Baibars to dominate Syria. By 1516, Syria was ruled as a single unit by Egypt, from the seat of Damascus. This was the first modern time that this had occurred since the rule of the Umayyad caliphs 1200 years earlier. However the Ottoman Turks easily displaced the waning Egyptian Mamelukes in 1516, and the Osmani Sultans became the Caliphs.

Upon the end of Egyptian rule, bilad al-Sham (Syria) reverted to the Ottoman Empire, and became sub-divided into provinces. These were not ‘national divisions'; or even ‘natural division’ but administrative divisions facilitating rule over the provinces. As the Ottoman Empire was challenged by Ibrahim Pasha (son of Muhammed Ali a vassal to the Ottoman Sultan) of Egypt, a modernisation began in Syria. A central government was formed with a measure of modern progress such as education. But Ibrahim Pasha then attempted to invade Constantinople in 1839, and the Great Powers intervened. They ‘propped up the Sick Man of Europe’ – the Sultanate of Constantinople.

The Ottoman Empire was an Oriental Despotic form of state; broadly speaking it was the equivalent of feudalism in the West. Its characteristic was the almost complete absence of private property in land. As Marx characterised it:

“Bernier rightly considered the basis of all phenomena in the East – he refers to Turkey, Persia, and Hindustan – to be the absence of private property in land. This is the real key to the Oriental heaven”

Letter Marx to Engels; 2 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.334 (See Appendix 1 to this article).

“The absence of landed property is indeed the key to the whole of the East. Therein lies its political and religious history. But how to explain the fact that oriental never reached the stage of landed property not even the feudal kind? This is I think largely due to the climate, combined with the nature of the lands more especially the great stretches of desert extending from the Sahara right across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary to the highest of the Asiatic uplands. Here artificial irrigation is the first prerequisite for agriculture, and this is the responsibility either of the communes, the provinces or the central government. In the East, the government has always consisted of 3 departments only; Finance (pillage at home); War (pillage at home and abroad); and travaux (i.e. works –Ed) publics, provisions for reproduction”;

Letter Engels to Marx; 6 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.339.

(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and French Colonial Yoke

By the end of the 19th Century, the break-up of the Ottoman Empire was eagerly expected by the imperialists. After several secret organizations had struggled for years, in 1908, some young reformers led by a small bourgeoisie forced a parliamentary system. In 1913 the Committee of Union and Progress, led by the army officer Enver Pasha, took power in the seat of the Ottoman Empire at Constantinople, finally un-seating the Sultanate.

The Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire, a dictatorship based on Oriental Despotism was forced into a democratic reform. At the opening phases of the First World War, Enver Pasha led Turkey into an alliance with Germany. This was sealed in the secret Treaty of Berlin July 28. By its provisions, the Ottoman Empire would observe strict neutrality and Germany would defend Ottoman territory in case of external threats.

Within a few months, Turkey’s secret dealings with Germany had been revealed. Following incidents where German cruisers evaded British ships to obtain safe berths in Turkish waters, Britain declared war on Turkey. As the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill initiated war actions against Turkey on November 1 1914 War was formally declared by Britain only on November 5th. Churchill noted that with the Ottoman Empire as an enemy, its territories were free to being divided up much easier.

As the war progressed, the Allied forces blundered into the defeat at Gallipoli. This invasion between 25 April 1915, to 17 November 1915, left half a million dead. British command had led an Allied force with a large Australian contingent, was defeated by the Turkish forces commanded by Mustapha Kemal – later to be known as Attaturk.

Naturally at the end of the First World War, the victorious super powers led then by the Allied powers, in particular Britain and France – took the opportunity to divide up the Ottoman territories. In 1914:

“At the end of a fevered expansionist movement that was rooted in the 1880’s, France had built the second largest colonial empire in the world, an empire of more than 10 million square kilometers, with nearly 50 million inhabitants.”

Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990″; 1990; p.7.

France had up to then, no significant colony in the Middle East. This did not deter its pretensions in the area, based on the rather tenuous, and distant history of the Crusades:

“During the Crusades, French knights won kingdoms and built castles in Syria….In 1914…there were still Frenchmen who regarded Syria as properly part of France. France maintained close contacts with one of the Christian communities along the Mount Lebanon coast of Syria, and French shipping, silk, and other interests eyed commercial possibilities….The moment that the Ottoman Empire entered the war, French officials in the Middle East therefore formulated plans to annex Turkey’s Syrian provinces. Frances’ Minster in Cairo and Consul General in Beirut immediately joined in urging their government to invade the Lebanese coast”

Fromkin, David: “A Peace to End All Peace. The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East”; New York; 1989; p. 94.

Meanwhile, in Britain manoeuvring had also begun. The De Bunsen Committee was appointed by Prime Minister Asquith to advise on polices post-war in the Middle East; the proceedings were dominated by Sir Mark Sykes a Tory MP. It reported five autonomous provinces should be created in the decentralised Ottoman Empire: Syria, Palestine, Armenia, Anatolia and Jazirah-Iraq.

During the war, Lord Kitchener Minister of War in the British Cabinet, proposed a pact to the Sherif of Mecca – Hussein. Kitchener’s plan was to make the Sherif Caliph, thereby displacing both religious and temporal power away from Constantinople to Mecca – Arabia proper. This would appeal to the majority of the Ottoman Empire who were Arabs, yet ruled by the 40% of Turkish speakers – by the Ottoman Empire. In return Hussein was to assist with the overthrow of Turkish rule:

“Kitchener’s telegram … sent by Grey at the Foreign Office, told the British Agency (in Cairo-Ed) that Storr should reply to Abdullah Hussein that (son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca-Ed):

” If the Arab nation should assist England in this war that has been forced upon us by Turkey, England will guarantee that no internal intervention take place in Arabia, and will give the Arabs every assistance again foreign aggression”…. In other words if the Arabian leaders freed their peninsula from the Sultan and declared their independence, Britain would help to protect them against any invasion from abroad.”

Fromkin Ibid; p. 102-3.

This promisory note was to lead to serious future conflicts. Apart from anything else, British calculations that the Mecca Sharif Hussein dynasty (the Hashemites) would be given the allegiance of all Arabs was mistaken. It ignored the ambition of the Wahabi sect led by the Sunni Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, based in Central Arabia.

Nonetheless, the illusions of Britain’s backing took hold of Sharif Hussein somewhat. An illustration of this was in the demands he made, in what came to be known as the Damascus Protocol. This demanded an independent Arab kingdom under his rule. This was presented by Hussein to the British command at Cairo in summer 1915. The British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon – was pressurised by Kitchener to write accepting the demands of Hussein (See Fromkin Ibid; p. 178). This led to the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. In these McMahon used duplicitous wording, to the effect that Hussein should understand a British commitment towards Palestine. The British imperialist had understood that they would have to:

“pay a price… to obtain France’s consent to the making of promises to Hussein”

Fromkin Ibid; p. 182.

Accordingly McMahon forced Hussein to relinquish claim to Syria, Lebanon, Basra and Baghdad, leaving only Arabia. This would mean negotiation with other contenders such as Ibn Suad (See Fromkin; Ibid; p.183).  Hussein explicitly rejected this “offer” – stating that:

“Any concession designed to give France or any other Power possession of a single square foot of territory in those parts is quite out of the question”

Fromkin, Ibid; p. 185.

In reality he had little other choice, as the Ottoman Empire Young Turks were about to depose him. The British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey gave the signal:

“Not to worry about the offers being made by Cairo as “the whole thing was a castle in the air which would never materialise”

Cited Fromkin Ibid; p. 185.

Hussein then insisted that there could be no Arab uprising against the Ottomans without an Allied landing on the Syrian coast. This spurred an imperialist presence in the Middle East.

This frames the  talks between imperialist France and Britain. France, represented by the son of an African French colonist – Francois Georges Picot and Britain – represented by Tory M.P. Sir Mark Sykes. These two simply secretly divided Syria up, under the secret provisions of theSykes-Picot Agreement of February 1916. Partition kept the Allies united. Palestine was to be “placed under an international regime”- to be determined after “consultation” with all parties involved – including (sic) other interested allies such as Russia and Italy!

Such negotiations between “Allies” were un-trustworthy. In the meantime a secret French-Russian pact between the French Prime Minister Aristide Briand, and the Russian foreign ministry, it was “decided” that the post-war administration of Palestine was to be French controlled.

Hussein tried for as long as possible to temporise, but when the Ottoman Young Turks discovered his plots, they mobilised. To circumvent this, Hussein “declared” war, leading to the pathetic Arab Uprising in June 1916. It did not ignite any reaction, and the Arab tribes largely ignored the call. Simmering continued. However, in 1920, the Battle

Thus ensued the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The United Nations “awarded” the French the Mandate over Syrian and Lebanon. France ‘took’ the North , which became the republics of Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile in the South, Britain seized Palestine and Transjordan. This,  occurred despite the fact that the population itself, had made clear its own desire for independence:

“The inhabitants of the whole region made it clear that they wanted natural Syria to be independent and undivided: In July 1919 an elected body calling itself the Syrian National Congress repudiated the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration and demanded sovereignty status for a united Syria-Palestine.”

Seale; Ibid; p. 15.

In the interim, an Arab administration led by Amir Faysal established itself in Damascus. The contradictions between the European waning imperialisms of France and Britain were set against the rising imperialism of the USA. Even the USA led King-Crane Commission visited the area and confirmed the popular view. But the USA was as yet unable to effectively challenge the hegemony of the USA in the area. Thus in 1920, the European powers were given Mandates over the new states carved out of the former Ottoman provinces. Although Faysal fought against this both politically and then in armed struggle, the troops of French General Geraud entered Damascus in 1920. At the Battle of Maisaloun, they decisively defeated Faisal.

The French dismissed Faysal and set up a classic colonial state. Their Mandate, made the French Government the ‘intermediate’ between its High Commissioner and the League of Nations. On the principle of divide and rule, they quickly proceeded to create new states, and to foster the remaining divisions between people of the former bilad al-Sham.

They created out of Syria a newly detached State of Greater Lebanon; by detaching Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and Tripoli, the Baqa’ Valley and the Sh’i region of North Palestine. These were attached to Mount Lebanon – the fief of Maronite compradors of France.

Then in 1921, France yielded to Turkey, large parts of Aleppo, and Alexandretta-Antioch.

A further administrative manoeuvre divided Syria into four parts: These were the mini-states of Damascus, Aleppo, and the “independent” Alawi mountains and the Druze mountains.

Finally the Northern part of Syria was colonized and further division fostered by encouraging settling by Christians and Kurds. Of course the purpose of all this sub-division of Syria was to ‘ensure’ French hegemony:

“The French fully understood that Syrian nationalist sentiment would be opposed to their rule. This in effect meant the that the Sunnis were their principal antagonists and they thus proceeded to capitalise on the .. Christians, their oldest friends, by creating a new state that stripped Tyre, Sidon, Tripoli, the Baaka valley & Beirut itself from Syria and added them to the Ottoman sanjak (administrative district) of Mount Lebanon the very backbone of Maronite Christianity. Syria was cut off from its finest ports and Damascus … was weakened at the expense of Beirut and the new Christian dominated regime”:

Fisk R; “Pity the Nation – The Abduction of Lebanon”; London 1990; p. 62.

Political parties were only allowed a legal existence in January 1925. At that time, the Peoples Party launched armed struggle. This party had been the first that the French had legalised  ( Ismael T & Ismael J: The Communist Movement in Syria & Lebanon, Gainsville; 1998 p. 12). Within 2 years it was crushed. But, the French remained aware of the depth of feeling, and allowed a national assembly to convene in 1928. But it was soon dissolved, in 1930, by the French. Large popular protests erupted by 1936. This compelled the French Government, under the leadership of the Popular Front Government to enter negotiations with the Syrian nationalists. The Franco-Syrian Treaty of September 1936, called for a Syrian [neo-colonial] ‘independence’ in return for French privilege in trading and military status. The National Bloc was elected to power, but the Second World War supervened. The French suspended the 1930 Constitution by the imposition of martial law (Dilip Hiro: “Inside The Middle East”, London; 1982; p. 42).

“was not a unitary party so much as a working alliance of individuals and groups. It including leading members of important land-owning families… like Hashim al-Atasi, the President… individuals…”

Hourani A.H. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; 1968; Beirut; p.191.

In 1943, the British pushed Vichy France, to hold elections in Syria. The National bloc was again elected. Syria declared war on Germany in February 1945, thereby winning a seat at the Founding Conference of the United Nations. France was clearly a faltering imperialist nation. Britain, at that time was still struggling hard to keep the upper hand, against a new insurgent USA imperialism. However, it still had could browbeat the French out of Syria. Britain had foreseen that unless the Syrians were allowed a nominal ‘independence’, the whole Middle East was threatened from the perspective of imperialism.

It was only in April 1946, that the French left Syria as an occupying colonial military power. As the History of Colonial France puts it:

“The Syrian Affair had ushered in decolonisation at the worst possible time for France. It was under the very powerful menace of the British, and suffering from the injuries inflicted by the Arab League, these forced it to abandon its mandate without contradiction.”

Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990″; 1990; p.360 (Tr Kumar H).

The Syrian Parliament of the 1943 elections, was deposed by a military coup led by Husni al-Za’im  in March 1949. This was assisted by the debacle of the first Arab-Israali war of 1948 and the defeat of the Syrian army. It was only in 1954, that his successor (Colonel Adib al-Shisakli) was overthrown by a further military coup.

This was precipitated by the United Front meeting at Homs in July 1953, where the National Party, the People’s Party, the Arab-Socialist party, the Ba’th party and the Communist party signed a National Pact to overthrow the Shishakli dictatorship.

At this time, parliamentary democracy was restored. The ensuing poll in September 1954 was the first in the Middle East with full women’s suffrage, and was generally free.

Syria by the time of the French withdrawal in 1946 had been whittled down to 185,190 square kilometers from 300,000 square kilometers in Ottoman times. (See Seale; Ibid; pp14-16). Open colonialism was to be replaced by a neo-colonialism.

(iv) The Post-Independence Economy

The class character of Syria after the war, was that of a neo-colony dominated by French and British interests, with  major feudal remnants. The economy was largely based on peasant based, raw material production, with oppression from the landowners.

The French had developed a comprador base. Since industry was weak in the area, both from previous Oriental Despotism, and the depredations of  Ottoman oppression followed by European imperialism, the representatives of the national bourgeoisie were initially weak.

The French had created a large comprador class by fostering various sections of the ‘Alawis (eg. The Kinj Brothers; the Abbas family); and in Mount Lebanon from 1860 onwards the Maronite Christians; and other landowners throughout the former bilad al-Sham.

Previously, a collective type of farming , known as musha’ had enabled the peasantry to each gain a subsistence living. The plots were periodically re-distributed in order that each family would have turns on the better plots. But following the previous example by the Ottomans from the 1858 Ottoman Land Code, the French drew up a land register. This meant that local notables and tribal shayks were enabled to seize property by legal title.

Under this pillage, comprador owned latifundia were built up. Monied merchants and moneylenders in the cities also became Latifundists. In the process the peasantry was of course expropriated and impoverished to the status of being share-croppers. This meant that they obtained between 25-75% of the crop they worked, depending upon how much they provided in money for seed, and water.

Since as Seale puts it, Syria was a “predominantly agricultural country”, the solution of the misery of the peasant was a major goal for the country’s development. This required a national democratic revolution. The extent of the poor development of industry, and the misery of the people can be seen from the following statistics:

“Syria was a predominantly agricultural country, its backbone being two million peasants out of a then population of about 3.5 million, inhabiting some 5,500 villages built mostly of mud and mostly lacking piped water sewerage electricity tarred roads or any other amenity of modern life… The population was ravaged by disease… In 1951-3, 36% of registered deaths occurred among children under five. National income per head was a mere 440 Syrian lire (US$157), although socials disparities were such that most Syrians earned even less. Outside the two main cities of Damascus and Aleppo electricity was rare, serving fewer than three-quarters of a million people in the whole country. There were only some 13,000 motor vehicles a single port Latakia, and three small railways all Ottoman built and of different gauge.”

Seale; Ibid; p. 44.

By the Second World War and immediately after, a small industrialist class, and its corollary a working class had arisen in cotton and rayon cloth, soap, cement, glass, and matches; and some industrial penetration into the countryside latifundia had also occurred. (Seale Ibid; p. 46).

The French had created several divisions in the area, or had deliberately stoked up older, historic division – these were at the minimum the following:

Divisions of land into arbitrary areas with peasant expropriations; and

Divisions of territory between potentially hostile ‘religious’ divisions (Sunni versus Shi’i Muslim  sects – of the latter being Druzes, ‘Alawis, and Isma’ilis).

But, the class divisions overlay – but sometimes depended upon the above divisions.

(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?

These can be characterized with respect to their relations to the ownership of the means of production; and to their relations to the democratic revolution and a subsequent second socialist stage:

1. Those Forces Interested in the Social Revolution
i) The predominant class was the peasant class, the majority of whom were actually share- croppers;
Initially they were led by the Arab Socialist Party (ASP) of Akram al-Hawrani, formed in 1950.
ii) A small working class based mainly in Damascus and Aleppo;
These were initially led and represented by the Communist Party Syria and Lebanon (founded October 1924, admitted Comintern 1928), who ultimately, also gained the leadership of the peasantry. After Syrian territory was divided into Syria and Lebanon, the two parties formed separate organisations in 1930, leaving in Syria the Syrian Communist Party (SCP).

2. The Class Forces Implacably opposed to any phase of National or Social Revolution:
i) The feudal-type latifundia land owners; who were comprador bourgeoisie;
these were led and represented by the French imperialists;
and then later by the so-called pro-“Pan-Syrian” nationalists; Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP – or Parti Populaire Syrien) established by Antun Sa’ada. The Pan-Syrians only wished that the territory of Syria and Lebanon not be divided, and allowed a diversion to offer against the Pan-Arabists. They had established a management hold over the tobacco growers of the mountains, and had a monopoly with the French ‘regie de tabacs’. They were known to be pro-West and anti-communist (See Seale Ibid; p. 49-50).

3. Forces interested in  “national democratic” revolution – but wished to abort the second stage, the socialist revolution.
The petit bourgeoisie, and the peasantry, and at a later stage the small but potentially important national industrialist capitalist class, was represented by the Ba’th Party at first and then by the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party (ASBP).

The industrialists were as always frightened of the arousal of the workers and peasantry. They were at best then ‘vacillating’ allies of the national democratic revolution.

(vi) The Ba’ath Party and the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party

Welding Arab nationalism into a  movement that could make strides against imperialism in reality needs Marxism-Leninism. But nationalists who shied away from revolution, tried to find a different solution. They tried to ignite Arab pride. This involved a mystical Pan-Arabism.

The formation of the Ba’th Party (or Baath) in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and Wahib al-Ghanim. The concept originated in Syrian intellectuals who upon return to Syria from the Sorbonne in Paris, were dismayed to find themselves treated as ‘colonials’:

“The party was…founded…by two rival schoolmasters, the ‘Alawi from Antioch, Zaki al-Arsuzi, and the Damascene Christian, Michel ‘Aflaq…Zaki al-Arsuzi was a Syrian intellectual from a modest background who in the late 1920s, won a place at the Sorbonne from which he emerged four years later with a philosophy degree and a boundless enthusiasm for French poetry, painting and civilization … Arsuzi … gathered a circle of young followers to whom he explained that the ‘renaissance’ of the Arabs – that is what the word ‘ba’th’ means – was in their grasp.. (but-ed) he came to suffer from delusions” …. In Hama Akram al-Hawrani led a youth movement and …. a lawyer, jalal at-Sayyid, started a boys’ club with a strong nationalist flavour which was to be the first Ba’th party branch in eastern Syria. But of all these youth groups, the most significant for the future was that of Michel ‘Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar who, like Arsuzi graduates of the Sorbonne, on their return home to Damascus in 1934 became teachers ….By 1940 ‘Aflaq and Bitar had set up their own study circle … At the start they called their group the Movement of Arab Revival (barakat al-ibya’al-arabi)”

Seale P; Ibid; p. 27 -28

These intellectuals repudiated Marxism, and were explicitly anti-communist. Although the Ba’th movement built on prior sentiments of Syrian nationalism, these had been close to a religious interpretation dominated by the Sunni sect. This alienated other parts of the Muslim Arabs, who consequently did not join in with the national movement:

“In the past, the Arab nationalist movement had always been interwoven with a kind of Sunni Islamism. And the Sunni Arabs, who usually played first fiddle in this movement, assigned in  their Arabism such an important and central role to (Sunni) Islam that heterodox Muslims, let alone Christians, were allotted a secondary place: ‘timid subordinates’ tolerate by (Sunni Arab) ‘superiors.’ In fact, many Sunni Arab nationalists tended to regard members of the Arabic speaking religious minorities as ‘imperfect Arabs’ because they were heterodox Muslims or not Muslims at all. Equally, the religious minorities tended to suspect Arab nationalism as a disguise for unrestrained Sunni ascendancy, similar to the situation that pertained during the Ottoman Empire, the only difference being that Arab rather than Turkish Sunnis now held power.”

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.

The Ba’th ideology was supposed to be secular and it based itself on all Arabs irrespective of sect of Islam, or even of Islam itself. Ba’th means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement, also holding out a promise of “socialism” to “all Arabs“:

“Ba’th ideology had a quite different basis. The Ba’th wanted a united secular Arab society with a socialist system, i.e. a society in which all Arabs would be equal, irrespective of their religion. This did not imply that Islam was of secondary importance to Ba’thist Arabism. In the Ba’thist view Islam constituted an essential and inseparable part of Arab national culture. Other than the Sunni variants of Arabism, however, the Ba’th considered Islam to be not so much an Arab national religion as an important Arab national cultural heritage, to which all Arabs, whether Muslim or Christian, were equal heirs apparent. In the opinion of Michel ‘Aflaq, the Ba’th Party’s ideologist, Christian Arabs therefore need feel in no way hindered from being Arab nationalists:

“When their nationalism awakens in them completely and they regain their original nature, the Christian Arabs will realise that Islam is their national culture with which they should satiate themselves, in order that they may understand and love it and covet it as the most precious thing in their Arabism.’

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.

However, they slipped frequently into defense of the religious aspects – of Islam, stressing the social and progressive aspects, as preached by its religious leaders. To get the full flavour of mystic philosophy of Ba’th philosophy, a portion of their words are in Appendix Two , which contains a short extract from a 1955 speech by a leader Elyas Farah.

An appeal to the entire Arab peoples should have instantly appealed to the nascent bourgeoisie. But its more immediate appeal was to the petit-bourgeois intellectuals, and only to a limited extent to the peasant masses. Intellectuals who were already breaking away from tribal and narrowing holds, saw its potential:

“It was thus only natural that the Ba’th ideology appealed strongly to Arabic-speaking religious minority members, who may have hoped that the Ba’th would help them to free themselves of their minority status and the narrow social frame of their sectarian, regional and tribal ties.’

Finally, the minority members must have been attracted by the idea that the traditional Sunni-urban domination of Syrian political life might be broken by the establishment of a secular socialist political system as envisaged by the Ba’th, in which there would be no political and socio-economic discrimination against non-Sunnis or, more particularly, against members of heterodox Islamic communities.

After the take-over of Hafiz al-Asad in 1970, membership of the struggle for party apparatus was opened to all Syrians, including non-Arabs such as (Arabised) Kurds, Circassians and Armenians.” The number of non-Arabs in an Arab nationalist party like the Ba’th was bound to remain small, however. “

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17-8.

The Pan-Arabic vision, was illustrated by the Constitution of the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party, which officially states:

“The Arab nation constitutes a cultural unity. Any differences existing among its sons are accidental and unimportant. They will disappear with the awakening of the Arab consciousness … The national bond will be the only bond existing in the Arab state. It ensures harmony among the citizens by melting them in the crucible of a single nation, and combats all other forms of factional solidarity such as religious, sectarian, tribal, racial and regional factionalism.”

Bashir al-Da’uq ed; Nidal al-Ba’th; Volume 1; Beirut 1970; pp172-6; Cited by:
Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; ; p. 15.

Michel Aflaq and Zaki Arsouzi, in 1943, at first formed the Arab Ba’th Party, in secret out of two small groups. But the legal establishment of the party: had to wait till the French military left in 1946 (Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130).

From its formal beginning in 1947, the Ba’th Party intended to cover all countries where Arabs were predominant. It was not restricted to Syria. Its’ programme called for land reform and nationalisation of major parts of the economy, and a constitutional democracy:

“At its first pan-Arab congress in Damascus in April 1947, delegates from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Morocco adopted a constitution and a programme. The party’s basic principles were described as: the unity and freedom of the Arab nation within its homeland; and a belief in the ‘special mission of the Arab nation’, the mission being to end colonialism and promote humanitarianism. To accomplish it the party had to be ‘nationalist, populist, socialist and revolutionary’. While the party rejected the concept of class conflict, it favoured land reform; public ownership of natural resources, transport, and large-scale industry and financial institutions; trade unions of workers and peasants; the cooption of workers into management, and acceptance of ‘non-exploitative private ownership and inheritance’.” It stood for a representative and constitutional form of government, and for freedom of speech and association, within the bounds of Arab nationalism.”

Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.

The main social base for the Ba’th was not initially the larger sections of the bourgeoisie. They were not yet convinced that the Ba’th would serve their interests. Later, these were to follow the lead of  President Nasser of Egypt:

“In Syria the party drew its initial support either from the urban Sunni (Muslim) and Orthodox (Christian) petty bourgeoisie, or the rural notables, particularly those in the Alawi and Druze areas of Latakia.

‘The party’s social base remained the petit bourgeoisie of the cities, and in the countryside middle landlords with local social prestige,’ notes Tabitha Petran. ‘However, the Baath did not develop much in the cities. Most of the Sunni petit bourgeoisie, even in Damascus, was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and later also by President Nasser. But the Ba’th won a following among students and military cadets: future intellectuals and army officers.”

Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.

A related party was the Arab Socialist Party. This party had a mass peasant base, which was to become vital to the Ba’th:

“The other party to draw support from the military cadets was the Arab Socialist Party, founded in January 1950 by Akram Hourani, a lawyer from Hama. .. At his suggestion the Syrian government had instituted the egalitarian policy of disregarding the social background of the applicants to the only military academy at Horns. Since a military career was the only way a son of a poor or middle peasant could raise his social status, the Horns academy attracted many applicants from this section of society. Given the ASP’s commitment to ending feudalism and distributing government land to the landless, and its leadership of peasant agitations, it was not surprising that it enjoyed considerable following among young cadets and officers.”

Hiro; Ibid; p. 131.

Soon the ASP and the Ba’th Party came together, forming the Arab Socialist Ba’th party (ASBP) in 1953. Its’ leaders, who later forced into exile, were Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar, and Akram al-Hawrani.

As discussed they represented the “middle ground” elements consisted of representatives of the petit bourgeoisie who having become educated, were cognizant of the need for progressive modern change. But most of these elements (white-collar urban workers school-teachers, government employees, large sections of the army and the air force etc;) were not of communist mentality. The Ba’th Socialist Party now restated the Ba’th’s founding aims:

“Drawn together by their opposition to the dictatorial regime of Colonel Adib Shishkali, the leaders of the Baath and the ASP decided in September 1953 to form the Arab Baath Socialist Party: this was formally done six months later. The new party re-stressed the Baath’s central slogan: ‘Freedom, unity, socialism’.” 

Hiro, Ibid p.131.

What did “socialism” mean for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party? It was a very vague and imprecise ideology:

“Socialism, which comes last in the Baath trinity, is less a set of socio-economic principles than a rather vague means of national moral improvement. . . . All they [Ba’thist leaders] said was that socialism was a means of abolishing poverty, ignorance, and disease, and achieving progress towards an advanced industrial society capable of dealing on equal terms with other nations.”

Hiro Ibid; p.131.

The ASP’s peasant base gave the new party a mass following:

“The infusion of the ASP’s predominantly peasant following into the new party gave it the militant mass base that the old urban-based party had lacked. Winning sixteen parliamentary seats in Hama, the ASP’s stronghold, in the general election of September, strengthened the hands of the leftists in the party, and softened its anti-Communist stance, associated with the founders of the pre-merger Arab Ba’th Party.” 

Hiro Ibid; p.131.

(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism

Nasserism was  a specific form of Pan-Arabism, led by Gamel Abdul Nasser. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same. Wahda (Arabic for union) was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.

As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, both these ideologies aimed to contain the mass movement, emphasising the notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.

Revisionism in the parties of the entire Middle East had deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.

Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisies against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.

That way it was to be hoped, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie together would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.

Ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC- consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.

(viii) The Syrian Communist Party

The party was founded by Yusuf Ibrahim Yazbak, who used the paper al-Sahafi al-T’eh (The Wandering Journalist) to form a base; and Fouad al-Shamli, who after expulsion from Egypt, formed a base for the Lebanese Communist party. The two groups united to form the first Arab communist party:

“After two meetings were held in October 1924 at al-Hadath (a suburb of Beirut), a communist party in Syria and Lebanon was formed on 24 October 1924 by five Arabs (four workers and one intellectual): Yazbak, al-Shamali, Farid Toma, Ilyas Qashami, and Butros Hishimah. They selected Yazbak as secretary general and called the party the Lebanese People’s Party (LPP) as a public front for the communist party. The Supreme Committee of Syndi-cates constituted the main membership of the communist party and its front organization, the Lebanese People’s Party. This was the first organized and constituted communist party in the Arab world.”

Tareq Ismael and Jacqueline Ismael: “The Communist Movement in Syria And Lebanon”; Gainsville Florida, 1998; p. 8.

They contacted the Comintern in 1924, who sent them Joseph Berger of the Palestine Communist Party (PCP). This was only established in 1923, but it was a member of the Communist International (Degras J: Volume 2; p. 95). Berger was assigned the responsibility of “setting up the Lebanese CP”.  But problems rapidly surfaced as he insisted on a PCP hegemony:

“Almost since the very beginning there were signs of major disagreement between the representative of the Palestinian Communist Party, Joseph Berger, and the Lebanese communists in connection with the rejection by those present of the Palestinian guardianship of the Lebanese party. It was obvious that the Palestinian Communist Party wanted the Lebanese party to be a branch, whereas the Lebanese insisted on maintaining their independence. This occurred in spite of the coordination that was going on between members of the party and their counterparts in Palestine during the party’s first decade. The Communist Party of Palestine, which was then almost exclusively Jewish, was at that time the most ideologically mature, organizationally coherent, and genuine communist outpost in the Middle East. Its leaders believed the party to be “the only communist front in the Arab Orient” and considered it their duty “to pay attention to every question … in relation to the revolution … to look into matters relating to Syria, Egypt, and Islamic Congresses in Cairo, Mecca, and elsewhere.”” However, their aspirations were soon curtailed by the Secretariat for Oriental Affairs of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, which in December 1926 “censured” the Palestinian communists for their “ambitious demand to monopolize work in contiguous countries” and considered it to be a malady, harmful for the further expansion of communist influence in the region.”

Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p. 8.

This attitude of the Palestine CP persisted, as seen in the 1929 Comintern discussion on the revolution in Arabistan. This forms Appendix 3 (See: Comintern on Arabistan).

The party put forward a short term programme including labour demands, and

“promotion of Lebanese industry agriculture and trade” and nationalisation; and control of religious endowments by public agencies”

(Ismaels Ibid; p. 10-11).

In 1925, an Armenian organisation (Spartacus League) initiated contacts, and they fused on May Day to form the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon (CPSL). The first Central Committee also included a representative of the Palestine CP – Jacob Tepper (Heikal M; “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 41).

In 1926 however, the Oriental Secretariat Executive Committee of the Communist International, placed the party under the supervision of the Palestine CP, countermanding the prior Lebanese decision (Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p.14). At the 6th Congress of the Communist International in September 1928, the CPSL took part.

During the French mandate, the Syrian CP (SCP) legally functioned, though suffered harassment such as the banning of its paper – al-Insaniya (Mankind – or Humanity).

At the time of partition of Greater Syria, the CPSL strongly objected. In 1930, it emerged from secrecy to become public (Ismaels Ibid; p.17). Its first full programme was published in 1931. 

The programme called for the national liberation of Syria and Lebanon and a democratic revolution to include land reform and abolition of feudalism.

Khalid Bakdash joined the party in 1930, recruited by al-Shamali. Promoted to the Central Committee in mid-1931, he was sponsored by Artin Madoyan. Within six months he had ensured al_Shamali’s expulsion – on:

“unsubstantiated and specious allegations that he had connections with the Security”

Ismaels Ibid; p.20.

Six months later, Bakdash became the party Secretary-general in early 1932, and went on to translate the Communist Manifesto in 1933 into Arabic. He was given further training in Moscow, and there, was made the permanent representative of Arab communist parties in 1934. Although the Comintern rejected the formation of a federation of Arab communist parties, on the grounds of security, the CPCL was accorded in effect the guardianship of the region.

The CPSL supported the French Popular Front government and hoped this would led to the independence of Syria.  During this time, the first legal organ of the Syrian CP was allowed – Sawt-al-Sha’b (People’s voice). However the SCP remained small, in the range of 200 members, rising to 2000 by 1939. In the mid-1930’s an internal purge was undertaken of those calling for collaboration with Arab Nationalists (Ramet, Pedro: “The Soviet Syrian Relationship Since 1955 – A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder; 1990; p.65.).

On the declaration of war on the USSR, the CPSL came to the aid of the Allied efforts against fascism. But during the war, significant steps towards downplaying the revolution were taken. In the elections of August 1943, the CPSL declared:

“We assure the national capitalist , the national factory owner, that we do no look with envy or malice on his national enterprise. On the contrary, we desire his progress and vigorous growth. All that we ask is the improvement of the conditions of the national worker. We assure the owner of land that we do not and shall not demand the confiscation of his property.. All that we ask is kindness towards the peasant and the alleviation of his misery”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 32.

While it is correct to fight for a national democratic revolution – such promises violate the meaning of a principled united front. Similarly, Bakdash was prepared to accept the leadership of the National Bloc. Bakdash went so far as to state that the CPSL was ‘a party of national liberation’:

“above all, and before ever consideration, a party of national liberation, a party of freedom and independence.”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.

And he traced the attraction to the USSR to a nationalist perspective:

“We approach this [issue of relation with the USSR] as patriots and as Arabs… not because the Soviet Union has a particular social system”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.

It can be concluded that already as early as 1945, Bakdash was a revisionist.

In 1943, Bakdash reversed the whole prior policy of the CPSL and assisted the goals of the French colonists and future neo-colonists by splitting the party into separate organisations for Syria and for Lebanon. This decision took place at the national Congress of 1943 held in Beirut. Its grounds were contradictory – arguing that firstly the “national movement in Lebanon was less developed than in Syria,” and that “democracy is more deeply rooted in Lebanon than in Syrian. where the feudal landlords still continue to rule” (Ismaels Ibid; p.35).

The relations with the French CP were one of close liaison – if not instruction. Since, in the post Independence year of 1947 – the new Syrian government again banned the CP – the two sections of Lebanon and Syria amalgamated again, until 1958.

Since its inception the Syrian CP had been anti-Zionist. However with the revisionist inspired support of the diplomatic corps of the USSR, the USSR vote at the United Nations for the creation of Israel, led the Syrian CP to reverse itself. (The revisionist manoeuvres underlying this are described in Alliance 30).

As a result of this the party rapidly lost public support (Ismaels Ibid; p.39). Bakdash refused to tolerate criticism of this within the party, which was purged. At the Central Committee meeting of 1951, he reasserted control. At this juncture, Bakdash re-discovered the injunction of Stalin to maintain a “complete freedom to carry out its political and organisational activity” within a United Front” (Ismaels Ibid; p.43). He also correctly reasserted that the strategic aim at that time, was the democratic national liberation. As a result of these steps, party support ws re-built.

In the 1954 general election, in Damascus Khalid Bakdash became the first Communist deputy to be elected, his margin was 11,000 votes. This indicated a popular respect for the Communist Party. (Mohamed Heikal “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 48).

This suggests that the Syrian CP was following correct strategy and tactics at this stage. Indeed Bakdash declared in 1955, in parliament, an unequivocally Marxist-Leninist viewpoint:

“We, the communists, always announced, and repeat today, that the center of our policy is to find meeting points, not disagreements, with all true nationalists…. Our program in this national democratic lib-eration stage that our country is now experiencing is crystal clear: to strengthen the foundations of independence and sovereignty … ; to participate in strengthening world peace; and to challenge imperialist conspiracies;… to spread democracy and strengthen it; to liberate our economy and work to improve it; to reform our agriculture; to raise the standard of living of workers, peasants and all toilers. After the achievement of national democratic liberation, we open the door to a higher stage of socialism … scientific socialism admits that the road of each nation toward socialism must be consistent with the character-istics of each nation and with its historic evolution, economic conditions and the other national specificities of the society … this is our program, and these are our grand aims. Show me where these conflict with the interests of Syria.”

(Ismaels Ibid; p.47).

At the same elections, the Arab Ba’th Party also won several seats. They were cooperating with the Syrian CP in the control of the streets (Hiro Ibid; p. 131).

The correct policy, was indeed to move from the first stage towards the second stage of the National democratic liberation struggle – for socialism. Yet one year after, after the USSR 1956 20th Party Congress, Bakdash again steered the party towards a more total emphasis on purely national goals rather than a conscious movement to the second stage.

(ix) The Syrian CP (SCP), the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic

By 1957, the Syrian party was one of the strongest in the Middle East. At the same time, the  alliance with the Ba’ath party, was stronger than it had ever been. The coalition between the SCP and the Ba’ath, proceeded to expel American diplomats, sign arms agreements with Moscow, and appoint a member of the Syrian CP (General Afif el-Bizri) as Chief of staff – all in August 1957 (Mohammed Heikal; “The Sphinx and the Commissar – The Rise and Fall of Soviet Influence in the Middle East”; New York; 1978; p.76-78).

This precipitated anti-Syrian moves by the USA imperialists – who arranged that an Iraqi and Turkish troop amassment took place on the borders with Syria. In September 1957, Kermit Roosevelt  of the CIA was sent to Egypt to warn Nasser not to proceed with an arms agreement with the USSR. Nasser pre-empted the USA by a public announcement of the impending arms. This transformed the Middle East from a pure “Western” preserve into a free-for-all.

When the Suez incident led to the subsequent humiliation of the British and French, the USA was using the episode as a further breach through which their imperialism would dominate. (This is discussed in more detail at: Three Tactics of the Nationalists in the Middle East).

This led to further USA attempts to destabilise Syria. A coup they sponsored had already failed in August (Hiro Ibid p.132).  Under pressure a polarisation took place, and it appeared that the Syrian CP was likely to gain further control of the leading positions in the coalition government with the Ba’thists. The Ba’thist leaders called for Nasser’s aid in fighting off the communists.

A situation analogous to the Shanghai massacre of the peasants and workers during the 1928 Chinese Revolution – was in the making. (See Notes on “Stalin & the 1928 Chinese Revolution” at Stalin & China). Stalin had repeatedly urged the CCP, through 1926 and early 1927 to break the bloc with the right KMT and move to a militant revolutionary struggle. The CCP did not heed this.

“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary of the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. … the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, of the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”

J.V.Stalin “Stalin’s Letters to Molotov”; Edited Lars T.Lih; Oleg V. Naumov; and Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Yale 1995; p.318-9.” at: Stalin & China

The situation of the Syrian Ba’th and the Syrian CP was very much the same. The Ba’th were preparing to renege. The Syrian CP was refusing to take the struggle forward, using the guise of preserving the united front. The Ba’th flew emissaries to Egypt offering Nasser an immediate military and political union of Syrian and Egypt. It was well understood that Nasser had brutally suppressed Egyptian communists. The Syrian army was strongly in support of this offer of the Ba’th leadership.

As the Syrian CP refused to go beyond their “national front,” they were dragged further backwards. Rather than oppose Nasser – the “hero” of Suez – they abandoned their prior insistence on a loose federal formula with Egypt. They now outdid the Ba’th, and insisted on a “total union” with Egypt (Ismaels; Ibid; p. 50). Belatedly they again changed tack, but it was now too late.

Nasser had seized the opportunity to accept the disastrous (For Syrian workers and peasants, and national bourgeoisie) formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR) in February 1958. This was the formal amalgamation of Syria and Egypt, and represented an expansionist phase of Egyptian national capital under Nasser. After the UAR was formed, the Arab Socialist Ba’th party was completely dissolved by its leaders on Nasser’s insistence. (Seale Ibid; p. 60). The Syrian CP refused to dissolve. Nasser was never a whole-hearted supporter of the USSR, as evidenced by his treatment of Egyptian communists.

The Egyptian suppression of both Ba’thists and communists proceeded apace. Syria’s rule was transferred to Nassers’ aide, Marshall ‘Amer (Seale Ibid; p. 59).

But when the Iraqi monarchist regime was toppled by the USSR supported military coup of General Abdul Karim Qasssem, the UAR relations became tense with Iraq. Iraq was now a client state of the USSR. Matters became worse for Syrian communists, whose Syrian CP supported Qassem. Qassem refused Nasser’s offer to join in the UAR.

But by 1961, the suppression of native Syrian capital had been so blatant, that the Syrian nationalists allied to the army,  launched a coup that separated the states of Egypt and Syria once mere. Strongly supported by Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and  Syrian businessmen. Another wing  of discontents were led by Hafiz al-Asad in a “Military Committee”. Because the Ba’th leading politicians had first asked for the Union with Egypt, and then reneged on it – they were discredited. The Military Committee members were jailed. This situation allowed the former comprador notables to take control of the state, led by Dr Ma’ruf al-Dawalibi, then Dr Bashir al-‘Azmah, and finally, Khalid al-‘Azm (Seale Ibid p. 72).

The Military Committee now united with the Ba’thists under Michel ‘Aflaq. In the coup of March 1963, the Military Committee took power in a complex coalition with both the Ba’thists and elements of ex-Nasserites. Asad was very much in the background at this stage. When the Nasserites were prompted by Egypt, they tried to seize power. In a pitched battle on 18 July 1963, the Ba’thist loyalists of the army won. In the ensuing years, Asad took control of the Ba’th Party. By 1966 the leading lights of the Ba’th were dealt with – Amin al-Fafiz was arrested; and Michel Aflaq & Salah al-Bitar were expelled (Seale Ibid p.102).

Bakdash had been previously expelled from Syria. When he was now allowed back to Syria in 1966, it was only under severe conditions:

“Khalid Bakdash the veteran leader of the Syrian Communist Party was allowed home after eight years of exile, while for the first time in Syrian History a Communist – Samih ‘Atiyya entered the government as Minister of Communications… Bakdash came home on stringent terms forbidden to hold meetings or make speeches.. “

Seale; Ibid; p. 108-109.

In fact, Bakdash had only been allowed back as a quid pro quo – the Khruschevites had demanded his return in lieu of payment for the construction of the Euphrates dam – only able to be constructed with the Khruschevite “aid.” The other two conditions included the Cabinet post named above to Atiyya – and the permission to publish a CP paper in Damascus. (Ramet Pedro: Ibid; p. 38).

The Syrian state was now fast becoming a client state of neo-USSR imperialism.

There were two primary vehicles for the USSR-  the Syrian CP – but now increasingly important – and over-taking the SCP was the Ba’th.

(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists

Over the very same period, counter-revolutionary events were taking place inside the USSR. Khrushchev was eliminating the Marxist-Leninists from any state positions. Shepilov, Molotov, Kaganovich, were all removed from any control in the party of the USSR by July 1957.

The positions of the Syrian Communist Party (SCP), were unlikely to recieve revolutionary clarification from the Khruschevites. In particular, a correct approach to the question of United Front in alliance with bourgeois democracy was jeopardised. We have detailed the switches and turns engineered by the revisionists following Stalin’s death, on this question (See Alliance 25: Khruschev Revisionism On The Colonial Question). Bakdash was to launch open polemics with the Khruschevite forces.

As Egypt was an important new semi-colony of the revisionist USSR, the Middle East merited special attention. R.A.Ulianovsky who specialised in national liberation struggles, was an aide to the revisionist Boris Ponomarev, himself an aide to Mikhail Suslov chief party ideologist. Ulianovsky was assigned a special role in the Middle East. Nasser and Ulianovsky came to an understanding over what would supposedly constitute the Arab Socialist Union.

The debate first opened in its new form at the 23rd Congress of the CPSU, in Moscow between 29 March and April 8 1966. Already Khrushchev had denounced Stalin at the 20th Party Congress (February 1956). The issue erupted as to how Communists interacted with bourgeois nationalists in the Middle East.

Bakdash took yet another turn, and now took a correct Marxist-Leninist line, against the Russian revisionists led by Ulianovsky.  We believe that it is likely that Bakdash was now becoming concerned that the USSR revisionists were favouring the Ba’th Party as their “vehicle of choice”. He therefore tacked back towards a more correct Marxist-Leninist viewpoint on the question.

Bakdash opened the subsequent printed debate in the Cominform monthly “Problems of Peace and Socialism”, called the “National Liberation Movement and the Communists” (December 1965). Here:

1) Bakdash asserted the independence in united fronts of the Communist parties: In his article he denied that:

“Even though the Soviet Union and other socialist countries pursued a policy of alliance with some of the newly free countries in Asia and Africa, this does not mean that the communist parties and the democratic forces generally must under all circumstances support their governments and renounce the fight for democratic freedoms.”

(Heikal Ibid; pp 157-161).

2) Bakdash asserted that the communists should hold the hegemony in the united front on behalf of the working class:

In fact Bakdash insisted that:

“No other social group, no class and no individual leader could take over the historic mission of the working class. Though he admitted that situations might arise in which another social group of individual leader was ‘carried to the fore on the tide of struggle against fascism, imperialism, feudalism and in some cases, also against the big bourgeoisie.'”

3) Bakdash asserted that bourgeois nationalists should be critically supported:

Bakdash stated that:

“They should be supported, ‘But we must be on our guard against attempts to justify such alliances by spurious theories repudiating the role of the working class.’ Bakdash insisted the proletariat must be the leaders of socialist transformation and the ‘future depends on the struggle between the classes and the outcome of this struggle.'”

4) Bakdash rejected any “populist” variants on Scientific socialism, such asArabic socialism”:

“He cast doubts on the argument that those who have come to Marxism partially, can be induced to accept it completely at some future stage- ‘there are those who say that the supporters of the so-called ‘Arab'; ‘African'; or ‘Islamic’ socialism will ultimately discover that the only real socialism is scientific socialism… Experience shows that this is not the case.”

5) Bakdash asserted that socialism required a centralized mass Communist party; that took power; and was not the same as the enactment of simple reforms:

He argued that reforms undertaken in state were NOT the same as establishing socialism, and that the latter is dependent upon the working class being the leaders of the revolution and of the government:

“He rejected the idea that the superstructure in a country always reflected the base: ‘On the contrary internal and domestic factors can cause sudden changes in the superstructure capable of influencing the base'; Referring to land reforms in countries like Algeria and The U.A.R., and Syria, he said that the machinery of state alone, with army and police, was not sufficient to deal with the problems involved:

‘What is needed is an influential authoritative revolutionary mass party enjoying the confidence of the people’… ‘At the same time there are no grounds for saying that the given country has taken the socialist way. To take this view would be tantamount to saying that the leading role in establishing socialism no longer belongs to the working class but has passed over to the nationalist groupings and the small bourgeoisie.'”

6) Finally he rejected the Egyptian variant of Liquidationism.

He openly criticized the Egyptian communist party for dissolving itself, in April 1965. This had been on the advice of the Khruschevites.

“Its members were advised to join the Arab Socialist Union – as individuals.”

(see Heikal Ibid; p. 140-1)

In return the USSR Revisionists, in their turn now chastised Bakdash.

As Heikal says, the official answer to Bakdash came in an article by R.A.Ulianovsky entitled: “Some problems of the Non-Capitalist Development of liberated Countries” – which appeared in the Soviet monthly magazine “Kommunist” for January 1966. Here Ulianovsky repudiated on behalf of Khruschevite revisionism – all these points. (Heikal Ibid; pp.158-161). There, Ulianovsky wrote:

“Life demands the creation of a left-wing bloc in wihhc the more conscious and better equipped Marxist-Leninist elements would play the role of friend and helper of the national democrats….If the Marxist-Leninists undertake this mission in a left-wing bloc they will help the progressives to avoid making mistakes and will thus exert a beneficial influence at critical moments of development”;

Cited heikal; Ibid; pp. 158-159.

Unfortunately, even now, to the best of our knowledge, Bakdash did not yet openly and fully repudiate Khruschevite revisionism.

Later on during the post 1967 Egyptian/Arab war with Israel, after the collusion of the Russians revisionists, with the USA and the state of Israel, in the  estruction of the Arab forces, (See Heikal, Ibid; pp 178-183) various attempts were made to enforce a so called “negotiated settlement.”

During this period, Bakdash was asked to comment upon the two rival plans being floated for this “negotiated settlement”. One emanated from Gromyko and the Russian revisionists; one came from the USA imperialists. His comment was revealing:

“After reading the Russian version…He was shown the American proposals. He could not help noticing the similarities, and admitted that there was no Arab Communist who could defend the Gromyko Plan – and no Arab nationalists who could defend it either. Bakdash’s explanation of what had happened was… That the Russians wanted to demonstrate to the Americans that it was the Arabs who were being negative… Bakdash confessed that he was disappointed at the other communist parties over Palestine. ‘We have to admit it,’ he said, ‘That there is a lot of Jewish influence in European Communist parties, and that if it had not been for Soviet influence the resolution on the Middle East at the Moscow Conference would have been weaker. Over Zionism the Rumanians showed themselves more royalist than the king- the Israeli communists were prepared to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people, but the Rumanians refused.'”

Heikal Ibid; p. 195-196.

By 1971 when the Russians formally left Egypt, Khaled Bakdash was again in Moscow, now able to argue that the policy of an un-principled support – to the point of jettisoning the independence of the Communist party – had been proven again to be wrong. But the revisionists had by now created huge damage already in the Middle East (Heikal; Ibid; p. 253).

The later career of Bakdash was however a renewed slide into revisionism.

In Conclusion

We believe that Bakdash tried to fight the Soviet revisionist distortions of the revolutionary line in colonial and semi-colonial countries, but ultimately, due to the disintegration of the world communist movement led by revisionism, Bakdash was unable to overcome the world propagation of the new revisionist line, pushed by Moscow. As Heikal puts it:

“There was a considerable contrast between the views of Khaled Bakdash and Ulianovsky – Khaled Bakdash wanted each local party to be an individual entity….whereas Ulianovsky was trying to keep them inside the national organizations.”

(Heikal; Ibid; p.160).

Overall Conclusion:

There can be no solution to the problems of Syria’s people until the formation of a new Marxist-Leninist party there.

The “solutions” of Pan-Arabism have been shown to be false.

Bill Bland: The Case of Sultan-Galiyev

Sultan-Galiyev

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

By Comrade Bland of the Communist League (UK); was written for the Marxist-Leninist Bureau Report no 3; and presented to the Stalin Society (circa 1994)

Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau Report No. 3, dated 1995

MIR-SAID SULTAN-GALIYEV* was a Volga Tatar who was born in a village in Bashkiria in 1880. He studied first at the village mekteb (Muslim primary school), and then at the teacher’s training college of Kazan. He returned to his native village as a teacher, and then went to Ufa as librarian. From 1911 he contributed articles to many Russian and Tatar periodicals.

He joined the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in November 1917. The Central Commissariat for Muslim Affairs (Muskom) was created by government decree in January 1918, and later that year Sultan-Galiyev became its Chairman.

The Central Muslim Military Collegium (CMMC) was formed in April 1918 to direct  Muslim troops fighting on the Red side, and Sultan-Galiyev became its Chairman in December 1918. In 1920 he was promoted to membership of the three-man, Inner Collegium of the Commissariat of Nationalities (Narkomnats), under Stalin as Commissar, and was made co-editor of the Commissariat’s official ‘Zhizn Natsionalnostei’ (The Life of the Nationalities).

By 1920 Sultan-Galiyev:

“had become the most important Muslim in the entire Soviet hierarchy and had acquired a unique position from which to influence the Eastern policies of the Communist regime.”

(Richard Pipes: ‘The Formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism: 1917, 1923′; Cambridge (USA); 1954; p. 169).

Sultan-Galiev and his followers formed

“The so-called right-wing of the Tatar Communist Party.”

(Richard Pipes: ibid.; p. 169),

which:

“had a distinct political ideology.”

(Pipes: ibid.; op. cit.; p. 169).

This political ideology became known as Sultan-Galiyevism.

Sultan-Galiyevism

Marxism-Leninism maintains that, in a colonial-type country, the revolutionary process must go through two successive stages — that of national-democratic revolution and that of socialist revolution. Marxist-Leninists must support the national-democratic revolution and strive to win leadership of that revolution for the working class and its party, so as to transform it, with the minimum possible interruption, into a socialist revolution that will construct a socialist society.

Sultan-Galiyevism, on the other hand, put forward the view:

1) ‘that Muslim peoples are ‘proletarian peoples’, so that national movements among them are movements of socialist revolution:

“The Muslim peoples are proletarian peoples. . . . National movements in Muslim countries have the characteristics of a socialist revolution.”

(Mir-said Sultan-Galiyev: Speech of 1918, in: Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ‘The Volga, Tatars: ‘A Profile in National Resilience”; Stanford (USA); p. 143).

“The material premises for a social transformation of humanity can be created only through the establishment of the dictatorship of the colonies and semi-colonies over the metropolises.”

(Mir Said Sultan-Galiev, in: Richard Pipes: op. cit.; p. 261).

2) That in areas inhabited by Muslims, the Communist Party must “integrate with Islam”:

In areas inhabited by Muslims, the CP:

“Must necessarily integrate its (Marxism’s – Ed.) teachings with those of Islam.”

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: ‘Muslim National Communism in the Soviet Union: A Revolutionary Strategy for the:Colonial World”; page; 1979; p. 50).

and must accept:

“The need for conciliatory policies toward the Muslim religion and’ traditions.”

(Pipes: op. cit p. 170).

“The Muslim ‘national communists’ felt that . . . they had to reconcile Marxist teaching with that of Islam. They were therefore eager to preserve Islamic culture and the Muslim way of life. . . . Islam’s strong moral, social and political influence should be retained.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Marie Broxup: ‘The Islamic Threat to the Soviet State'; London; 1983; p. 82-83).

3) The integration of Marxism with Islam should be brouhgt about by a special party:

Sultan-Galiyev proposed that his programme must be brought about:

“By uniting the Muslim masses into an Autonomous Communist movement.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: op. cit.; p. 144).

“Sultan-Galiyev . . . stood for the formation of a special Muslim Communist Party.”

(Walter Kolarz: ‘Russia and Her Colonies'; London; 1952; p. 33).

4) that geographically large territorial units should be formed embracing as many Muslims as possible:

“Sultan-Galiyev, in particular. was an ardent defender of pan-Turkish and pan-Islamic ideas. He . . . advocated the union of the Volga Muslims with those of Central Asia.”

(Walter Kolarz: ibid. p. 33).

Sultan-Galiyev had:

“pan-Turanian ambitions and the desire to create a vast Tartar-Turkish state stretching from the Volga over Central Asia”.

(Edward H. Carr: ‘The Interregnum: 1923-1924′; London; 1954; p. 289).

“His (Sultan-Galiyev’s — Ed.) plan…was to begin with the creation of a Muslim state on the Middle Volga…To this state were to be joined, first the Turkic Muslims of Russia and later all the other Russian Muslims.”

(Geoffrey Wheeler: ‘The Modern History of Soviet Central Asia’ London 1964; p. 124).

“Sultan-Galiyev . . . elaborated the concept of the Republic of Turan, embodying all the Muslim revolutionaries’ pan-Islamic and pan-Turkic aspirations.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Marie Broxup: op. cit.; p. 84).

The Moves For a Seperate Muslim Communist Party (1918)

In March 1918, the lst Conference of the Muslim Toilers of Russia in Moscow:

“. . . adopted the decision to organise a Party of Muslim Socialist Communists.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: op. cit.; p. 145).

The leadership of the new party, headed by Sultan-Galiyev:

“Urged the Muslims to commit themselves to a purely Muslim Communist Party and refrain from joining the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks).”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 145).

and the new party:

“. . . was not joined organically to the Russian Communist Party.”

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op. cit.; p. 60).

Three months later:

“. . . in June 1918, at the First Conference of Muslim Communists, held in Kazan, the Party of Muslim Socialist-Communists was transformed into the ‘Russian Party of Muslim Communists (Bolsheviks)’. . . . It was to be open to Muslims only, was to have equal status with the RCB(b), and was to enjoy organisational independence to the extent of having its own Central Committee.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 145).

The Marxist-Leninists’ Counter-moves for a Unified Party (1918-20)

This movement by the “Sultan-galiyevists” for a separate Muslim Communist Party, came about during the Civil War. In this climate, it was tolerated since a counter-struggle was a distraction:

“Although not applauded by the RCP(b), was tolerated for purely tactical purposes under the stress of the Civil War.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 145).

But as soon as the danger from the Civil War had passed, the Marxist-Leninists counter-moved:

“As soon as the Bolsheviks . . . regained the upper hand in the Civil War, especially after recapturing Kazan in September 1918, Moscow moved.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 145).

At the 1st Congress of Muslim Communists in Moscow in November 1918, Sultan-Galiyev sought confirmation:

“Of the recognition of the autonomy of the Muslim Communist Party.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Quelquejay: ‘Les mouvements nationaux chez les Musulmans de Russie: Le ‘Sultangalievisme’ au Tatarstan’ (National Movements among the Muslims of Russia: Sultangaliyevism’ in Tatarstan) Paris; 1960; p. 128).

But Stalin:

“Representing the Central Committee of the RCP(b), rejected these demands in the name of centralism and administrative efficiency.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Quelquejay: ibid.; p. 128).

Stalin used the congress:

“To halt the centrifugal forces that had set the course for the emergence of a parallel and rival party organisation of the Russian Muslims. . . .The Russian Party of Muslim Communists underwent a substantial metamorphosis, re-emerging in the process as the ‘Central Bureau’ of Muslim Organisations of the RCP(b), whose central committee became the . . . Muskom (Central Commissariat for Muslim Affairs Ed.), presided over by Sultan Galiyev.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: op. cit.; p. 145).

Thus, the Central Bureau of Muslim Organisations:

“Found itself closely attached to the Russian Communist Party, all the more so since the chairman of the new Central Bureau of Muslim Organisations of the RCP(b) elected at the conclusion of the congress was Stalin, a delegate of the Central Committee of the RCP(b)”.

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Quelquejay: op. cit.; p. 128).

In March 1919, the 8th Congress of the RCP(b) established

“A unified and centralised Communist Party (thoughout Soviet Russia-Ed)…All decisions of the RCP(b) and of its guiding organs are binding on Party organs, regardless of their national composition.”

(Russian Communist Party (bolsheviks): Resolution of 8th Congress of the RCP(b) (March 1919), in: Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op. cit.; p. 62).

Immediately after the congress:

“The Central Bureau of Muslim Organisations was replaced by the ‘Central Bureau of Communist Organisations of the Peoples of the East.'”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Quelquejay: op. cit.; p, 131).

In other words it:

“was stripped of its socio-cultural meaning and was instead endowed with a geographic attribute.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: op. cit p. 145).

At the 2nd Congress of Communist Organisations of the Peoples of the East, held in Moscow in November/December 1919:

“The autonomy of the Muslim communist groupings was explicitly terminated….The congress condemned autonomy, invoking the precedent of the Bund**.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Quelquejay: op. cit.; p. 131).

These events:

“Left no doubt that the RCP(b) and its chief expert on nationality problems, Stalin, had reversed the tide of organisational independence that the Tatar ‘national communists’ had set in motion in 1918.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: op. cit.; p. 145-46).

However in October 1919 the Tatar ‘national communists':

“Made a bid for autonomy for their party organisation at the local level.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 146).

The Proposal for a Tatar-Bashkir Republic (1919-20)

Although a Bashkir Automonous Soviet Socialist Republic had been established in March 1919, in November 1919, at the Preparatory Conference for the 2nd Congress of Communist Organisations of the Peoples of the East:

“Sultan- Galiyev demanded . . . the speedy creation of the Tataro-Bashkir state. Lenin refused to consider this demand, and the matter was referred to the Central Committee of the RCP(b). … Some days later, Sultan-Galiyev renewed his attempt at the 2nd Congress of Communist Organisations of the Peoples of the East. …. Again the Russian leaders rejected these demands.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Quelquejay: op. cit.; p.141).

The proposed state would embrace both Bashkiria and Tataria and form:

“A large Turkic republic on the Middle Volga.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: op. cit.; p. 137).

The delegates at the congress:

“Renewed their support for the formation of a Tatar-Bashkir republic.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 137).

As proposed by Sultan-Galiyev.

But in view of the influence of Sultan-Galiyevism in the region:

“The Soviet government chose to sponsor the formation of smaller republics.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 137-38).

So in December 1919:

” . . the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist (Bolshevik) Party, which was presided over by Lenin, decided to halt all efforts to create a Tatar-Bashkir republic.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 137).

Nevertheless, in March 1920, a delegation of three, including Sultan-Galiyev:

“. . . visited Lenin to try to convince him of the necessity of enlarging the frontiers of the future Tatar republic so as to include the Bashkirs and other Muslims. Yet again Lenin rejected this demand and accused the Tatars of demonstrating ‘imperialist chauvinism’, of seeking to impose their domination over the more backward Bashkirs.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Quelquejay: op. cit.; p. 142-43).

In May 1920 a decree was issued:

“Declaring the formation of the Tatar ASSR.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: op. cit.; p. 138).

The Moves for Further Weakening of Sultan-Galiyevism (1920)

In July 1920:

“. . . the First Regional Conferece of Tatar Communists … held in Kazan . . . , adopted the decision to rename the Muslim Bureau of Gubkom the ‘Tatar Regional Bureau of Communist Organisations.'”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 146).

In August 1920 a resolution of the Central Committee of the RCP(b) declared:

“that Sultan-Galiyev’s duties and assignments required his presence in Moscow”.

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: ibid.; p. 146).

Most commentators assume that by this resolution:

“The Central Committee of the RCP(b) sought to weaken the Tatar and their independent stand by removing their most prominent Communists ‘leader from Kazan.”

(Azade-Ayse Rorlich: op. cit.; p. 146).

Sultan-Galiyev’s Mission to the Crimea (1921)

In the spring of 1921, Sultan-Galiyev was sent to the Crimea, to report on conditions there. His report, published in May 1921, proposed that a Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic be created. This recommendation was accepted by the Soviet authorities who:

“Despite objections from local Communists and the acceptance of a resolution by the Crimean Regional Communist Party Congress against the creation of a republic. . . . carried out Sultan-Galiyev’s recommendation and established in November 1921 the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Soviet Republic.”

(Richard Pipes: op Cit.; p.190.)

The territory of the Crimean ASSR, was occupied by German forces between 1941 and 1944:

“General Manstein* was relatively successful in his attempts to gain active support from the Tatars. According to both German and Tatar evidence, the Germans persuaded between 15,000 and 20,000 Tatars to form self-defence battalions that were partially armed by the Germans and sent into the mountains to hunt down partisan units. . . . Most accounts claim that the Crimean Tatars were unduly privileged during the German regime. ….. There is no question that large numbers of Tatar villagers, as well as the Tatar self-defence battalions, fought hard against the Soviet partisans. The traitors knew well the local inhabitants and turned over all suspicious characters (often the patriots) to the German police.”

(Alan;W.Fisher: ‘The Crimean Tatars'; Stanford (USA): 1978; p. 155, 157, 158).

As a result of this mass treason, in May/June 1944, the Crimean Tatars were deported from the Crimea to distant parts of the Soviet Union. And:

“On June 30 1945, a year after the deportation, the Crimean ASSR was abolished and transformed into the Crimean oblast (district – Ed.) of the RSFSR”.

(Alan,W. Fisher: ibid.; p. 167).

(A more detailed description of the background to the mass resettlements ‘Ls, to be found in a paper entitled ‘The Enforced Resettlements, read to the Stalin Society in July 1993. See web-page: Resettlements).

The First Arrest (1923)

Sultan-Galiyev was:

“arrested for the first time in May 1923 and excluded from the Communst Party for ‘nationalist deviation.'”

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op. cit.; p. 208).

According to Trotsky, Sultan-Galiyev’s arrest was initiated by Stalin, with the approval of other leaders, including Kamenev and Zinoviev:

“‘Do you remember the arrest of Sultan-Galiyev in 1923?’, Kamenev continued.
‘This was the first arrest of a prominent Party member upon the initiative of Stalin. Unfortunately Zinoviev and I gave our consent.”

(Leon,Trotsky: ‘Stalin': New York; 1941; p. 417).

Sultan-Galiyev:

“Was never formally tried. He was released from custody in June 1923 … ‘in recognition of services rendered to the revolution.”‘

(A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op. cit.; p. 85).

Although at the 4th Conference on the National Republics and Regions held in June 1923 (a few weeks after his arrest), Sultan-Galiyev was accused of “treason” and participation in “objectively counter-revolutionary” activity, at this time the full scale of his subversive activity against the Soviet state was not known. For example, it was not known that in 1920:

“Sultan-Galiyev, Zeki Validov* and a group of prominent Muslim ‘national communists’ . . . met in Moscow and founded the secret group ‘Ittihad ve Tarakki’ (Union and Progress)…. ‘Ittihad ve Tarakki’ pursued a threefold goal: to infiltate ‘national communist’ Turks into the ‘Communist Party and the Soviet government apparatus; . . . to inculcate Islamic and pan-Turkic ideals; and to establish contacts with counter-revolutionary organisations abroad and in Soviet Russia, especially with the Basmachi.”**

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op. cit.; p. 87).

The 4th Conference on the National Republics and Regions (1923)

On,9-12 June 1923, the 4th Conference of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party with Workers of the National Republics and Regions was held in Moscow:

“Convened on J. V. Stalin’s initiative”.

(Note to: Josef V. Stalin: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 429).

With Stalin in the Chair, an important item on the agenda of the conference was ‘the Sultan-Galiyev Case.’ Sultan-Galiyev:

“was thoroughly vilified, accused of deviations and treason, and excluded from the Communist Party.”

(A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op. cit.; p. 83).

A resolution was adopted on ‘the Sultan-Galiyey’ case’, the principal points of which were:

“1. Sultan-Galiyev, appointed by the Party to a responsible post of the Collegium of the People’s Commisariat of Nationalities), profited from his situation and the relations which arose from it . . . to set up . . . an illegal organisation in order to oppose measures taken by the central organs of the Party. He had recourse to conspiratorial methods, and used secret information in order to deliberately falsify the decisions of the Party on national policy.
2. Sultan-Galiyev tried to utilise this anti-Party organisation to sap the confidence of the formerly oppressed nationalities in the revoluionary proletariat, and sought to prejudice the union of these two forces, which is one of the essential elements for the existence of
Soviet power and for the liberation of the peoples of the East from imperialism.
3. Sultan-Galiyev strove to extend his organisation beyond the the Union of Soviet Republics, trying to enter into relations with his supporters in certain Eastern countries (Persia, Turkey)
to rally them around a platform opposed to the policy of the Soviet power…..
4. The anti-Party, objectively counter-revolutionary aims of Sultan-Galiyev and the very logic of his anti-Party activity led him to treason, to alliance with the counter-revolutionary forces openly struggling to overthrow the Soviet regime. Thus, he has sought to link up through the medium of their chief, Zeki Validov, with the Basmachi** of Turkestan and Bokhara, who are supported by international imperialism.
5. The conference considers, in consequence, that the criminal acts of towards Party unity and the Soviet Republic, acts entirely admitted by him in his confessions, place him outside the Communist Party.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Lemercier-Quelquejay: ‘Sultan-Galiev: Le pere de la revolution tiers-mondiale’ (Sultan-Galiyev: The Father of Third-World Revolution); Paris; 1986; p. 215-16).

At the conference, Stalin defended his past support of Sultan-Galiyev:

“I have been reproached….with having defended Sultan-Galiyev excessively. It is true that I defended him as long as it was possible, and I considered, and still consider, that it was my duty to do so. But I defended him only up to a certain point. . . . When Sultan-Galiyev went that point, I turned away from him. … There are so few intellectuals, so few thinking people, even so few literary people generally in the Eastern republics and regions, that one count them on one’s fingers. How can one help cherishing them?”

(Josef V. Stalin: Speech on the Sultan-Galiyev Case. 4th Conference of the Central Committee of the RCP(b) with Responsible Workers of the National Republics and Regions (June 1923), in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow;.1953; p. 309, 310).

Stalin tells how, after he had criticised Sultan-Galiyev, the latter:

“Replied, in great embarrassment, that he had always been a Party man and was so still, and he gave his word of honour that he would continue to be a Party man in the future.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 310).

Despite, this promise, Stalin records,

“A week later he sent Adigamov a second secret letter instructing him to establish contact with the Basmachi** and with their leader Validov, and to ‘burn’ the letter. From that moment Sultan-Galiyev became for me a man beyond the pale of the Party, of the Soviets.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 310).

When, following Sultan-Galiyev’s arrest, some Tatar Communists demanded his release on the grounds that the letters concerned in the case were were “forgeries,” an investigation was held:

“What did the investigation reveal? It revealed that all the documents were genuine. Their genuineness was admitted by Sultan-Galiyev himself, who, in fact, gave more information about his sins than is contained in the documents, who fully confessed his guilt and, after confessing, repented.”

(Josef,V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 312).

Further Conspiratorial Activity (1923-27)

Upon his release, Sultan-Galiyev:

“Again became a journalist and worked until 1928 in various state publishing houses, notably at ‘Gosizdat’ of Moscow.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Lemercier-Quelquejay.: op. cit.; p. 219).

But he continued his deviationist political activity:

“He worked . . . in Georgia and in Moscow”;

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op. cit.; p. 208).

“Having lost his positions in the Russian Communist Party for his deviationist tendencies, Sultan-Galiyev tried for a final time to create a structure which could embrace the proponents of the Eastern and set it in motion. This was his ‘Colonial International’. The Colonial International was to be independent of the Comintern and all European Communist Parties, including the Russian Communist Party, if not opposed to them.”

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op, cit.; p. 58).

He also continued his clandestine subversive activity – he:

“Founded a clandestine ‘counter-revolutionary’ organisation”.

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Lemercier-Quelquejay: op. cit.; p. 219).

“It was between 1923 and 1927 that Sultan-Galiyev, out of prison and living in Georgia and Moscow, most actively worked to create a system of secret underground organisations, centred in Moscow and Kazan, but with offshoots extending as far as Alma-Ata and Tashkent. . . Many Muslim ‘national communist’ leaders . . . were connected to this organisation. …. There can be little doubt that the latter did indeed conspire”.

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: op. cit.; p. 87, 88).

The Second Arrest (1928)

“In 1928 Sultan-Galivev was . . . arrested for the second time. He was tried and condemned to ten years of hard labour in the Solovki camp on the White Sea.”

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: ibid.; p. 208).

This arrest marked

“The ideological and organisational destruction of Sultan-Galiyevism.”

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: ibid.; op. cit.; p. 91).

In December 1928,

“The majority of the Tatar members of the Tatar Obkom (Regional Party Committee — Ed.) were arrested, tried for ‘Sultan-Galiyevism’ and “treason’, and executed.”

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: ibid.; p. 91).

At the same time, the Communist Party of the Tatar Republic of Crimea was purged.

“Veli Ibrahimov*, the 1st Secretary of the Crimean Obkom, was arrested, tried and executed for counter-revolutionary activity.”

(Alexandre A. Bennigsen & S. Enders Wimbush: ibid.; p. 91).

“The great purge in the Muslim republics ….. began in 1928. It started in Crimea with the execution of Veli Ibrahimov, First Secretary of the Tatar Communist Party.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Marie Broxup: op. cit.; p. 85).

In February 1921 and again in June 1923, Stalin summed up the role of bourgeois nationalism in the border regions of the Soviet Union:

“Communists from the local native population who experienced the harsh period of national oppression, and who have not yet fully freed themselves from the haunting memories of that period, often exaggerate the importance of specific national features in their Party work, leave the class interests of the working people in the shade, or simply confuse the interests of the working people of the nation concerned with the ‘national’ interests of that nation; they are unable to separate the from the latter and base their Party work on them. That, in its turn, leads to a deviation from communism towards bourgeois-democratic nationalism, which sometimes assumes the form of pan-Islamism, pan-Turkism (in the East).”

(Josef V. Stalin: Theses for the 10th Congress of the RCP(b) (February 1921), in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 28.

“In relation to our Communist organisations in the border regions and republics. . . . nationalism is playing the same role . . . as Menshevism in the past played in relation to the Bolshevik Party. Only under cover of nationalism can various kinds of bourgeois, including Menshevik, influences penetrate our organisations in the border regions.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Speech on the ‘Sultan-Galiyev Case’, 4th Conference of cc of RCB(b) with Responsible Workers of the National Republics and Regions (June 1923); in; ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953; p. 316).

The Death of Sultan-Galiyev (1939)

Sultan-Galiyev:

“. . . died 1939 in imprisonment.”

Heinrich E. Schulz, Paul K. Urban & Andrew I. Lebed (Eds.): ‘Who was Who In the USSR'; Metuchen (USA); 1972; p. 591).

In 1989, on the eve of the liquidation of the Soviet Union, Sultan-Galiyev remained one of very few early leading members of the Soviet Communist Party not rehabilitated by the revisionists:

“Sultan-Galiyev, the father of ‘Muslim Communism’, remained one of the only two prominent early Bolshevik leaders still considered as ‘non-persons’ in 1989.”

(Amir Taheri: ‘Crescent in a Red Sky: The Future of Islam in the Soviet Union. London; 1989; p. 212).

International Repercussions of Sultan-Galiyevism

Sultan-Galiyevism has attracted support from a number of bourgeois revolutionaries and revisionists in countries outside the Soviet Union.

“Several Muslim heads of state, among them Ben Bella* and Houari ‘Boumedienne,* have spoken of his (Sultan-Galiyev’s — Ed.) third-world theories.”

(Alexandre Bennigsen & Chantal Lemercier-Quelquejay: op. cit.; p, 287).

“Algeria’s President, Ahmed Ben Bella, in a recent interview . . . disclosed that he was very much impressed by the theories of an early Russian Marxist named Sultan-Galiyev who believed that the real struggle in the world would commence when the underdeveloped nations rose up against the industrialised northern tier.”

(‘Newsweek’, 13 January 1964; p. 28).

Chinese revisionism contains theses closely similar to those of Sultan-Galiyevism. Lin Piao* declares:

“If North America and western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. . . . The contemporary world revolution . . . presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples.”

(Lin Piao: “Long Live the Victory of People s War!”; Peking; 1965; p.48-49).

NOTES:

The BASMACHI were members of an anti-Soviet counter-revolutionary organisation in Central Asia in 1917-26. It was supported by British and US interventionists and by reactionary circles in Turkey, Afghanistan and China.

The BUND (= the General Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia) was formed in 1897. It stood for the autonomous organisation of Jewish workers. It took a social-chauvinist stand during World War I and during the Civil War supported the counter-revolutionary forces. It dissolved itself in 1921.

PAN-ISLAMISM is a movement for the union of all Muslims within a single state.
PAN-TURANIAN: supporting the union of all peoples speaking Turanian (Turkic) languages.
PAN-TURKISM is a movement for the union of all Turkic-speaking peoples a single state.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexandre & BROXUP, Marie: ‘The Islamic Threat to the Soviet State'; London; 1983.

BENNIGSEN, Alexandre & LEMERCIER-QUELQUEJAY, Chantal: ‘Sultan-Galiev: Le pere de la revolution tiers-mondiale’ (Sultan-Galiyev: The Father of Third-World Revolution'; Paris; 1986.

BENNIGSEN, Alexandre & QUELQUEJAY, Chantal: ‘Les mouvements nationaux chez les Musulmans de Russie: ‘Le ‘Sultangalievisme’ au Tatarstan’ (The National Movements among the Muslims of Russia: ‘Sultangaliyevism’ in Tatarstan);”; Paris; 1960.

BENNIGSEN, Alexandre A. & WIMBUSH, S. Enders: ‘Muslim National Communism in the Soviet Union: A Revolutionary Strategy for the Colonial World'; Chicago; 1979.

CARR,.Edward H.: ‘The Interregnum: 1923-1924′; London; 1954.

FISHER Alan W.:’The Crimean Tatars'; Stanford (USA); 1978.

KOLARZ, Walter: ‘Russia and Her Colonies'; London; 1952.

LIN Piao: ‘Long live the Victory of People’s War!'; Peking; 1965.

PIPES, Richard: ‘The Formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism., ”1917-1923′; Cambridge (USA); 1954.

RORLIM Azade-Ayse: ‘The Volga Tatars: A Profile in National Resilience';
Stanford (USA); 1986.

SCHULZ, Heinrich E., URBAN, Paul K. & LEBED, Andrew L. (Eds): ‘Who was Who in the USSR'; Metuchen (USA); 1972.

STALIN, Josef V.: Speech on the Sultan-Galiyev Case, 4th Conference of the Central Committee of the RCP(b) with Responsible Workers of the National Republics and Regions’, in: ‘Works;, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953.

STALIN, Josef V.: Theses for the 10th Congress of the RCP(b) (February 1921), in: ‘Works’, Volume 5; Moscow; 1953.

TAHERI, Amir: ‘Crescent in a Red Sky: The Future of Islam in the Soviet Union'; London; 1989.

TROTSKY,.Leon: ‘Stalin'; New York; 1941.

WHEELER Geoffrey: “The Modern History of Soviet Central Asia'; London; 1964.

‘Newsweek’ 13 January 1964.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

BEN BELLA, Mohammed, Algerian nationalist politician (1916- President (1963-65); overthrown in military coup led by Houari Boumedienne (1965); under house arrest (1965-79); to France (1980).

BOUMEDIENNE, Houari, Algerian military officer and politician (1925-78);
colonel (1960); chief of staff, National Liberation Army (1960-62); led against Ben Bella and established Islamic government (1962); President (1976-78).

IBRAHIMOV, Veli, Soviet (Tatar) revisionist politician (? – 1928); Premier Crimean ASSR (1920-27); 1st. Secretary, RCP(b), Crimean ASSR (1920-27);
arrested (1927); tried for treason, found guilty and executed (1928)

LIN Piao, Chinese revisionist military officer and politician (1908-71), member Politburo, CPC (1955-71); member, Standing Committee, Politburo CPC, (1958-71); Minister of Defence (1959-71); named official heir to Mao, Tse-tung (1968); vice-chairman, CPC (1969-71); reported killed in plane crash while escaping to Soviet Union to escape arrest for participating in attempted coup (1971).

MANSTEIN, Fritz E. Yon, German military officer (1887-1973); lieutenant general
(1936); field marshal (1949); dismissed (1944); captured convicted of war crimes in Rusaia and sentenced to imprisonment (1949); released and appointed adviser to West German government (1953).

SULTAN-GALIYEV, Mir Said, Soviet (Tatar) revisionist politician (1880-1939); Central Commissariat for Muslim Affairs (1918-23); chairman, Central Muslim Military Council (1918-23); member, Inner Collegium of Commissariat of Nationalities and co-editor of its organ ‘The Life of the Nationalities'; Premier, Tatar ASSR (1920-23); arrested and released without charge (1923); re-arrested (1929); tried and sentenced to imprisonment (1928); died in prison (1939).

ZEKI VALIDOV, Ahmed Soviet (Bashkir) revisionist historian and politician (1890-1969); Professor of History, University of Kazan (1909-17); People’s Commissar of War. Bashkir ASSR (1919-20); to Turkestan to join Basmachi counter-revolutionary forces (1920); to Afghanistan, then Turkey (1922).

Enver Hoxha on Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic “Socialism”

256

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the Alliance issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

January 1980

THE EVENTS WHICH ARE TAKING PLACE IN THE MOSLEM COUNTRIES MUST BE SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF DIALECTICAL AND HISTORICAL MATERIALISM

The international situation is very tense at present. In many regions of the world and mainly in the large zone of the oil-producing countries, especially those of Asia, the struggle between the two imperialist superpowers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, not excluding imperialist China and the other capitalist powers, over the division and re-division of markets and spheres of influence, as they try to elbow one another out, has reached new, major proportions just as our Party correctly predicted long ago. Their pressures and plots are accompanied with diplomatic efforts and a propaganda clamour about “agreements and compromises” allegedly to preserve the peace and the balance of power. In fact, as recent events have shown, we see that agreements and compromises are still the basic principle of their policy towards each other regardless of their very acute rivalry. One day,however, the rivalry between them may reach such a point that they can no longer overcome it and settle matters except through military confrontation. The consequences of such a confrontation will descend upon the peoples, just as has occurred in previous imperialist wars.

The most recent result of this rivalry is the military aggression of the Soviet social-imperialists against Afghanistan, the occupation of that country through armed force by one of the imperialist superpowers. The fact is that what is now being done openly by the Soviets through their armed forces against the sovereignty of the Afghan people had long been prepared by the Soviet social-imperialist chauvinist politicians and military leaders and their Afghan agents. In order to arrive at the present situation, both the former and the latter exploited the overthrow, first of King Mohammed Zahir Shah in 1973 and, later, of Prince Daoud in 1978. They also exploited for their evil aims the desire of the Afghan people for social liberation from the oppression they suffered under the absolute monarchy and its foreign friends, first of all, the Soviets, who financed the monarchy and kept it in power. So, irrespective of the “alliance” which they had with the king of Afghanistan, the Soviet social-imperialists worked and acted for his overthrow. In order to disguise their imperialist aims, at first they brought their men, allegedly with more progressive sentiments, to power. Later, these, too, were changed one after the other, through actions in which blood was shed, by means of putsches and tanks, and Noor Mohammed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin were sent to the slaughter.

Nevertheless, no foreign occupier, however powerful and heavily armed, can keep the people, against whom aggression has been committed, subdued for ever. In every country which is invaded the people, apart from anti-national and anti-popular cliques of agents, receive the foreign aggressors with hatred and resistance, sporadic at first and later with more organized revolts which gradually turn into popular uprisings and liberation wars. We are seeing the proof of this in Afghanistan, where the people have risen and are fighting fiercely in the cities, villages and mountains against the Soviet army of occupation. This war of the Afghan people enjoys the support and sympathy of freedom-loving peoples and revolutionary forces throughout the world. Our people, too, support it with all their might. The war of the Afghan people against the Soviet social-imperialists is a just war, and therefore it will triumph.

The current war of the Afghan people against the Soviet military aggression and the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist, anti-American uprising of the Iranian people must make us reflect somewhat more profoundly, from the political, theoretical and ideological aspects, about another major problem which, in the existing situation of complicated developments in the world, is becoming ever more prominent: the popular uprisings of “Islamic inspiration,” as the bourgeoisie and the revisionists like to describe these movements, simply because the Moslem peoples of the Arab and other countries have placed themselves in the vanguard of the liberation movement. This is a fact, an objective reality. There are insurrectionary movements in those countries. If we were to examine and judge these movements and uprisings of Moslem peoples in an over-simplified and very superficial way as movements simply of an Islamic character, without probing deeply into the true reasons which impel the broad masses of the peoples to advance, we could fall in the positions of the revisionists and imperialists, whose assessments of these movements are denigrating and conceal ambitions to enslave the peoples.

We Marxist-Leninists always understand clearly that religion is opium for the people. In no instance do we alter our view on this and we must not fall into the errors of “religious socialism,” etc. The Moslem religion is no different in this regard. Nevertheless, we see that at present the broad masses of the Moslem peoples in the Arab and other countries have risen or are rising in struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism for their national and social liberation. These peoples, who were deliberately left in ignorance in the past and remain backward in their world outlook to this day, are now becoming aware of the great oppression and savage exploitation which were imposed on them by the old colonizers and which the new colonizers and the internal feudal-bourgeois capitalist cliques continue to impose on them. They are coming to understand the political-economic reasons for their oppression and, irrespective that they are Moslems and have been left in backwardness, they are displaying great vitality and making an important contribution to the anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic revolution which opens the way to the proletarian revolution. Those who have adopted and exploited the Moslem religion to exert social oppression over these peoples and to exploit them in the most ferocious ways are the anti-popular oppressive regimes and the reactionary clergy. They have protected and continue to protect their blood-thirsty power through the weapons and support which they have received from abroad, that is, from the imperialist powers, the neo-colonialist robbers, as well as through inciting and developing religious fanaticism. Thus, the development of events is more and more confirming the Marxist-Leninist thesis that the internal enemies collaborate closely with the external enemies to suppress their own peoples and that they use religion as a weapon to oppress the peoples and keep them in darkness.

The events taking place before our eyes show that the Moslem Arab peoples are fighters. Their anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal struggles and uprisings are accompanied with and result in armed clashes. These struggles and uprisings have their source in the savage oppression which is imposed on these peoples and in their freedom-loving and progressive sentiments. If you are not progressive and freedom-loving you cannot rise in struggle for freedom and national independence against the twofold internal and external oppression.

Another social cause and powerful impulse to anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal uprisings is the grave economic situation of these peoples, the burden of hunger and suffering under which they live. Hence, we cannot fail to take into account their political awakening and. to some extent, also their social awakening.

Looking at the whole struggle of the peoples of Moslem belief, we notice that there are marked differences in its level of development: there are periods when it mounts, but also periods of decline or stagnation, the latter caused by various factors and especially, by the pseudo-progressive bourgeoisie which places itself at the head of these peoples.

In Morocco, for example, there has been some movement, but the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement of the people of that country is not at the same height as that of other countries. On the contrary, the monarchy and feudalism dominate the Moroccan people, through violence and liberal pseudo-reforms, as well as by exploiting their religious sentiments.

In Algeria the people waged the national liberation war against the French colonialists and, although it was not led by a Marxist-Leninist party but by the national bourgeoisie, the war for national liberation ended with the withdrawal of the foreign occupiers, but it was carried no further…

In Tunisia the people seem to be asleep and very apathetic, are showing little sign of awakening, but they are not all that backward. Recently there was talk about a trade-union movement there and the general secretary of the trade-unions was arrested, but nothing more happened.

In 1952 there was a revolt in Egypt, too. The monarchy was overthrown without bloodshed. King Farouk was expelled from Egypt by a group of officers. Those who removed him from the throne accompanied him to Alexandria, gave him money, put him on board a ship and helped him to get away and save his neck. In other words, they told the monarch he had better leave of his own accord and save his skin, because he could no longer stay in the country, he no longer had any basis there. Thus, the group of officers, headed by Nasser, Naguib and Sadat, carried out what you might call a bloodless military coup against an utterly degenerate monarchy and seized power. What was this group of Egyptian officers that carried out the putsch and what did they represent? These officers were of the bourgeoisie, its representatives, they were anti-British, but amongst them there were also pro-Hitlerites. As I have mentioned, Anwar el-Sadat himself declares he collaborated with the “Desert wolf,” the Nazi field-marshal Rommel. 

This event, that is, the removal of Farouk from the throne, was exaggerated to the point of being called a “revolution.” However, the Egyptian people, the working masses of that country, gained nothing from this whole affair. Virtually no reform to the benefit of the people was carried out. The so-called agrarian reform ended up in favour of the feudals and wealthy landowners. Under the disguise of the unity of Arab peoples the newcomers to power tried to bring about the “unification” of Egypt with Syria. However, every effort in this direction was in vain because in Syria, too, at this time the capitalist bourgeoisie in the leadership of the state had simply changed their horses and their patron. The imperialist Soviet Union had replaced France. It sabotaged this baseless «unification» and established itself firmly in that country.

As is known, in 1969 there was a revolt in Libya, too; the dynasty of King Idris was overthrown and a group of young officers, headed by Qaddafi who poses as anti-imperialist, came to power. We can describe this revolt, this movement, as progressive at first, but later it lost its impact and at the moment it has fallen into stagnation. Qaddafi who came to power and claims to be the head of Islam, exploited the Moslem religion to present Libya as a “progressive” country and even called it “socialist,” but in reality the great oil wealth of the country is being exploited for very dubious adventurous and sinister aims. Of course, for purposes of demagogy and because the income from the sale of oil is truly colossal, some changes have been made in the life of the people in the cities, while the poverty-stricken nomads of the desert remain a grave social problem. As we know, Qaddafi was a disciple of Nasser’s in politics, ideology and religious belief, as well as in his aims. 

A somewhat more advanced and more revolutionary uprising against the monarchy took place in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, in 1958. It ended with the killing of King Faisal and his prime minister, Nuri Said. The “communists” took power there together with General Kassem, a representative of the liberal officers. Only five years later, however, in 1963, there was a coup d’état and Kassem was executed. He was replaced by another officer, Colonel Aref. In 1968 General Al-Bakr came to the head of the state and the “Baath” Party, a party of the reactionary feudal and compradore bourgeoisie, returned to power.

The events which are occurring in Iran and Afghanistan are a positive example for the peoples of neighbouring states, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Emirates of the Persian Gulf, Syria, Egypt and many others, but they also constitute a great danger to the ruling cliques of some countries in this region. Hence, the whole Arab world is in ferment, in evolution. 

The echo of this anti-feudal, anti-imperialist uprising of the Iranian people which is shaking the economic foundations of imperialism and its ambitions for world hegemony extends as far as Indonesia, but there the movement is weaker than in the countries of Central Asia, the Near and Middle East or even North Africa, where the Islamic religion is more compact and the assets are greater. In those regions, for instance in Iran, there is a progressive awakening of the masses, which for the moment is led generally by religious elements who know how to exploit the sentiments of these peoples for freedom and against oppressive imperialism, the monarchist leaders and rapacious feudal cliques of robbers and murderers, etc., etc. Therefore, we must make a Marxist-Leninist analysis of this situation. We cannot accept the tales that the bourgeois revisionist propaganda, American imperialism and world capitalism are spreading that Ayatollah Khomeini or this one or that in Iran are people who do not understand politics or are just as backward as Imam Ali, Imam Hassan and Imam Hussein were. This is not true. On the contrary, the facts show that people like Khomeini know how to make proper use of the existing movement of these peoples, which, in essence and in fact, is a progressive bourgeois-democratic and anti-imperialist movement.

Employing various ways and means, the different imperialists and social-imperialists are trying to present themselves as supporters of these movements and win them over for their own aims. At present, however, these movements are in their disfavour, are against them. So true is this that the Soviet social-imperialists were obliged to send their tank regiments and tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers into Afghanistan, in other words, to commit an open fascist aggression against an independent country, in order to place and keep in power their local puppets who were incapable of retaining power without the aid of the bayonets and tanks of the Soviet army, the armed forces of the Soviet Union.

Obviously, this event, this Soviet armed occupation of Afghanistan, was bound to have repercussions and cause concern in international public opinion, to arouse great anger and indignation among the freedom-loving peoples and progressive forces and, from the strategic standpoint, to provoke the anger of their rivals for hegemony, especially of the United States of America. In fact we see that these days the American president, Carter, seems to want to make a move, apparently to create difficulties for the Soviet Union and to strengthen his own positions which are growing steadily weaker, wants to take measures to prevent a possible Soviet invasion of Pakistan, or rather, to stop the Soviet social-imperialists from exploiting the anti-imperialist revolutionary sentiments of the Moslem people of Pakistan for their own ends.

The Pakistani people nurture sympathy for the anti-imperialist movement of their Iranian neighbours, and what is occurring in Iran could occur there, too. Precisely to forestall this eventuality, the United States of America, through President Carter, has proposed to the Pakistani government to dispatch 50,000 soldiers to Pakistan and to increase the supplies of arms, allegedly to cope with the Soviet danger. The United States of America sent its Secretary of Defence to China to concretize and activate the Sino-American alliance. During this visit both sides expressed their concern over the extension of the Soviet social-imperialist expansion in this region and, in connection with this, their determination to defend their own and each other’s imperialist interests. The United States of America promised China the most sophisticated modern armaments.

Is there really a Soviet threat to Pakistan? Yes, there is. However, in Pakistan the anger against Zia-ul-Haq, accompanied by sympathy for Khomeini, might erupt even without the intervention of the Soviets. In order to escape the Soviet pressure and the uprising of the Pakistani people, Zia-ul-Haq himself might link up with the Soviets and thus enable them to justify their intervention in Pakistan. That is why the United States of America is revising its military agreements with Pakistan.

For his part, Carter is trying to preserve the balance, because an intervention of the Soviet Union in Pakistan constitutes a threat to American imperialism in that region of the world. Carter must have influence in Pakistan, also, because that country has a “defence treaty” with the United States of America. Apart from this, in the new situation which has been created in these times in Central Asia, Carter also sees other dangers, such as the return to power of Indira Gandhi who is pursuing her pro-Soviet policy. If the Soviets are able to strengthen their position in India, which is in conflict with Pakistan, the latter country might be more vulnerable from the Soviet side, in other words, the penetration of Soviet influence there would be made easier and would increase. That is why the American imperialists want to forestall the eventuality of a military intervention or the build-up of the Soviet influence in Pakistan. On the other hand, the United States of America is very concerned about the possibility of Soviet pressure on Iran under the pretext of aid against the threats made to that country by American imperialism.

It is clear that the peoples of this region are Moslems and when we say this we have in mind the fact that the majority of them are believers, but their belief is relative and does not predominate over politics. There are also progressive people there who believe in and respect the Koran and religion more as a custom and tradition. When we speak about the overwhelming majority, we have in mind that part of the people to whom the Moslem religion has been presented as a liberal progressive religion which serves the interests of the people and to whom everything preached in its name “is for the good of the people,” because “to wash, to pray and to fast is for the benefit of the health, the physical strengthening and spiritual satisfaction of man,” etc., etc. In other words, people are told that the rites of this religion are “useful” not only for this life but also for the “next life,” after death. This is preached openly. However, the poverty and oppression, schooling and a certain political development have shaken the foundations of this belief.

In general, from all these events and developments, we see that the imperialists and the social-imperialists are in difficulties in these regions of the world. It is understandable that their puppets, likewise, are in difficulties. Both for the former and for the latter it is the progressive, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal revolutionary movement of the popular masses of the Moslem Arab peoples, whether Shia or Sunni, that is the cause of these great difficulties. The whole situation in this region is positive, good, and indicates a revolutionary situation and a major movement of these peoples. At the same time, though, we see efforts made by the enemies of these peoples to restrain this movement or to alter its direction and intensity.

Hence, we must regard these situations, these movements and uprisings of these peoples as revolutionary social movements, irrespective that at first sight they have a religious character or that believers or non-believers take part in them, because they are fighting against foreign imperialism and neo-colonialism or the local monarchies and oppressive feudalism. History gives us many positive examples in this direction when broad revolutionary movements of the popular masses have had a religious character outwardly. Among them we can list the Babist movements in Iran 1848-1851; the Wahabi movement in India which preceded the great popular uprising against the British colonizers in the years 1857-1859; the peasant movements at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century which swept most of the countries of Europe and especially Germany. The Reformation itself, although dressed in a religious cloak, represented a broad socio-political movement against the feudal system and the Catholic Church which defended that system. 

When the vital interests, the freedom and independence of a people are violated, they rise in struggle against any aggressor, even though that aggressor may be of the same religion. This is what occurred, for example, in North Yemen in 1962 when Nasser sent the Egyptian army allegedly to aid that country. Later he was compelled to remove the troops he had sent to Yemen, because a stern conflict began between the people of that country and the Egyptian army, irrespective that both sides professed the one religion.

In South Yemen, with a population of Moslem believers, there was a popular revolutionary movement against British imperialism which owned the port of Aden. Britain would never have left the port of Aden voluntarily, because it constitutes a very important strategic key to the Indian Ocean and the entrance to the Red Sea, but it was the anti-imperialist struggle of the people of Yemen that compelled it to clear out, because remaining there became impossible. After this, in 1970 a “popular democratic” regime which gradually came under the influence of the Soviet social-imperialists, was formed in South Yemen. The revolutionary movement against Soviet social-imperialism is bound to flare up there, if not today certainly in the near future.

Throughout the Principality of Oman there is an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist revolutionary movement which is also opposed to the ruling Sultan. A similar situation will develop in Ethiopia, Somalia, the countries of the Persian Gulf, etc.

The peoples of the countries of this region are all religious, believe in the Koran and Mohammed, and link the question of the struggle against imperialist oppression with their religion. This is a reality. Obviously, however, we cannot come to the conclusion that it is religion which is causing these revolts and this revolutionary awakening. By no means. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that these peoples believe in the Moslem religion and, at the same time, are fighting heroically for their national and social liberation against imperialism of every hue.

Before Liberation there were people who professed the Moslem religion in Albania, but there was no fanaticism. In the Arab or Moslem countries of Central Asia, too, the classical fanaticism of the past cannot exist, especially today. Such fanaticism can exist neither among the Moslems nor among the Catholics, the Calvinists and other schisms of Christianity. We must not forget the epoch in which we are living. We cannot fail to bear in mind the great development of science today, the growth and strengthening of the revolutionary proletariat and the spread of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. Today the reactionary religious leaders, lackeys of the feudal order and oppressive monarchies linked with them, who want to keep the people in ignorance and bondage and to combat their liberation movements, incite fanaticism in its classical sense in those countries.

In regard to Khomeini, he is a religious leader, a dedicated believer and an idealist philosopher. He may even be a fanatic, but we see that, at the same time, he is in accord and united with the revolutionary spirit of the Iranian people. Khomeini has taken the side of the opponents of the monarchy. The imperialist bourgeoisie, the supporters of the Pahlavi monarchy and other reactionary forces in the world say that he wants to become a monarch himself. Let them say this, but the fact is that the anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal liberation movement in Iran is in the ascendancy and Khomeini still maintains a good stand in regard to this movement.

What is occurring in Iran might occur also in Pakistan or in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, it may spark off a revolutionary situation in some other neighbouring country and even in the Soviet Union itself, because social-imperialism and revisionism carry national oppression everywhere and, as a consequence, arouse the national liberation sentiments of the peoples. Socialism and the Marxist-Leninist theory alone provide a just solution to the national question. Today the national rights of nations and peoples have been violated and trampled underfoot in the Soviet Union and wherever American imperialism and international capitalism rule. There is great oppression there, logically, therefore, there will certainly be movement.

We must examine and analyse the present events in Iran as they take place and draw conclusions from them on the basis of the teachings of our Marxist-Leninist theory. In the vanguard of the active forces in the uprising against imperialism and the monarchy in that country, are the religious zealots, the student youth, the workers and intellectuals. So, neither the proletariat nor a genuine Marxist-Leninist party is in the leadership of the movement. On this question we must also bear in mind the fact that we do not really know the strength and the basis of the different political currents in that movement. We know from experience that in our country, too, the working class was not developed, nevertheless, since the objective and subjective factors existed in the conditions of the occupation and the National Liberation War, the Party led the people to victory by basing itself on Marxism-Leninism, which means it put the working class and its vanguard, in other words itself, in the leadership. This is not the case in Iran. In that country there is a Marxist-Leninist party, the Workers and Peasants’ Communist Party of Iran, a young party which, has just been formed, but it is still small, untempered, not linked with the working class and the masses, etc., while the revisionist “Tudeh” Party has existed legally and illegally, is now legal again, but is a tool of the Soviet Union. Hiding behind Marxist-Leninist slogans, this party is sabotaging the anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle of the Iranian people and trying to bring Iran into the sphere of influence and under the thraldom of the Soviet Union. That is why the Moslem people of Iran, who have risen in revolution, are not acquainted with Marxism-Leninism either as a theory or a revolutionary practice. The students who are studying at Iran’s Moslem universities with great traditions and of the Shia Moslem sect, are both believers and non-believers in religion. In regard to the secular progressive elements there are those who believe in and are fighting for a liberal bourgeois-democratic state, those who believe in a “progressive” capitalist but anti-communist society, and those who still think that the Soviet Union is a socialist country which represents and applies Leninism. This is one of the reasons that genuine Marxism-Leninism has still not won acceptance in Iran, therefore the people there are fighting for liberation from the yoke of American imperialism and from Soviet influence, but under the banner of Islam. This means that the Shia Moslem clergy are in the leadership, in the vanguard of the uprising, but we have no illusions and know that they are for a bourgeois capitalist regime with religious predominance, hence, a theocratic regime. As to what course the movement against American imperialism and the barbarous compradore monarchy of the Pahlavis will take in the future, this depends mainly on the seething internal forces.

What general definition can be made of these forces?

In the present world situation and at the existing stage of the movement of the peoples for their national and social liberation, the popular revolution in Iran represents a new stage. Regardless of what others do or say, we must document this stage more carefully and make a critical Marxist-Leninist analysis of it.

Iran is a country very rich in oil, hence, has a working class comprised of oil workers and other industrial workers, but also has artisans. Of Iran’s 33 million inhabitants about 17 million are in the countryside and work the land. They are poverty-stricken, oppressed and exploited to the limit by the mullahs, the religious institutions, the big-landed bourgeoisie in the service of the Pahlavis, by the wealthy mercantile and money-lending bourgeoisie linked with the monarchy. Of the total population of Iran 99 per cent are of the Moslem religion and the majority of the Shia sect.

The Pahlavi regime was one of the most barbarous, the most bloodthirsty, the most exploiting, the most corrupt of the modern world. It employed bloodshed and terror to suppress any progressive movement, any even mildly liberal demonstration, any protest or strike of workers or students, and any attempt to develop a small-scale, auxiliary subsistance economy. The savage dictatorship of the Pahlavis was based on the big feudal landowners, the wealthy property-owners that the regime created, the reactionary army and the officer caste which ran it, and on SAVAK , the secret police, which the Shah himself described as “a state within a state.” The Pahlavis ruled by means of terror, robbed the people, enriched themselves in scandalous ways, were the personification of moral and political degeneration, were partners with and sold out to British and American and other imperialisms. The Pahlavis had become the most heavily armed gendarmes of the Persian Gulf under the orders of the CIA.

Iran was oppressed, but the people were seething with revolt, although wholesale executions were carried out every day. The ayatollahs who were discontented with the regime began to move. In 1951, Mossadeq, a representative of the bourgeoisie, supported by the mullahs opposed to the Shah, and by the “Tudeh” Party, seized power. In 1953 the Shah was driven out, but his overthrow and departure were not final, because the CIA organized a putsch, overthrew Mossadeq, brought the Shah back to Iran and restored him to the throne. Thus, Iran became the property of the Americans and the Shah and its oil became their powerful weapon. 

It is characteristic of the revolt of the Iranian people that, despite the great terror, it was not quelled, but continued spasmodically, in different forms and in different intensities. This revolutionary process steadily built up in quality and overcame the stage of fear of suppression

Despite the great terror, in 1977 the opposition to the Shah began to be displayed more forcibly, became more open and active. If we follow these trends opposed to the Shah and his regime separately we shall see that they are to some extent autonomous, but have a common strategy. Thus, we see the opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters, the resistance of the religious forces, the actions and demonstrations of the students, the stands of intellectuals, officials, writers, poets and artists against the regime expressed at rallies, in the universities and in other public places, etc., and together with all these currents we also see the self-defence and resistance of the working class and the whole oppressed and exploited people. SAVAK attacked mercilessly, but the suppression and executions only added to the anger of the masses. This resistance turned into a permanent activity. 

In the same period we see the re-awakening of the political opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters in the National Front. One of the elements of this current was Shapour Bakhtiar, who became prime minister on the eve of the overthrow of Shah Pahlavi. This was the last shot of the Shah and the American imperialists against the Iranian anti-imperialist revolution and Khomeini.

In the course of the development of this political opposition, the “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” the “Iran Party,” and the “Socialist League of the National Movement of Iran,” broke away. The “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” which was headed by Bazargan, who became prime minister after the departure of the Shah, was closer to Khomeini and the other imams.

We must always bear in mind that neither this political opposition, nor the religious opposition to the Pahlavis was united. Some of those who comprised this opposition were against the so-called agrarian reform, against the right of women to vote, etc. This section, which comprised conservative clergy, was steadily losing its influence amongst the masses, who were moving closer to that part of the clergy who openly fought the dictatorship of the Shah on the basis of the Shia principles of the Moslem religion. One of these was Ayatollah Khomeini, who was imprisoned, tortured, imprisoned again, and sent into exile and his son murdered. This enhanced the influence of the imam among the people, in the “Bazaar” (the main market centre of Tehran), hence, amongst the merchants, and also amongst the workers. In the rising tide of agitation and the great demonstrations against the Shah, the masses demanded the return of the Imam to the homeland. The death of his son and of a political personality, Ali Shariat, in mysterious circumstances led to the emergence of the religious elements in the forefront of the clashes and the whole people united with them, especially in Tabriz on February 18-19, 1977, as well as in Tehran, Qum and other Iranian cities. Al l this testifies to the fighting spirit of the people of Iran. As a result the Pahlavi monarchy was quite incapable of resisting the repeated waves of the onslaught of the insurgent people. 

Hence, in this climate of progressive insurgency against feudalism, the monarchy and imperialism, the Marxist-Leninists must analyse the various political trends, the orientations of these trends, the alliances and contradictions between them inside Iran and with the capitalist-revisionist world outside that country.

At present we see an active and militant unity of the uprising against American imperialism and the Shah and, to some extent, also against Soviet social-imperialism, and, at the same time, we also see increased vigilance and opposition towards all other capitalist states, though not so open and active as against the Americans. This situation will certainly undergo evolution. We see that the universities in Iran have become centres of fiery manifestations with both political and religious tendencies, and likewise see that the religious opposition and the political opposition are uniting. Thus, despite the contradictions which exist between them, it seems that the supporters of Mossadeq and those of Khomeini are moving closer together. In Tabriz, which has an important working class, apart from the oil workers, we can say that this unity has been brought about. Similar things are taking place at Abadan and the other regions where there are oil-fields and refineries. 

The Iranian Marxist-Leninists must, in particular, submit the strength and orientations of the working class to a Marxist-Leninist analysis and then their party must base its activity on this analysis, go among the working class, educate it and clarify it politically and ideologically, while tempering itself together with the working class in this revolutionary class struggle which, far from being ended, has only begun and will certainly assume diverse aspects. The revolutionary activity of the working class and the Marxist-Leninist ideology alone must become the factor deciding the correct directions which this anti-imperialist revolution must take. Certainly, in the present situation in Iran much can and must be gained from the revolutionary force of the Iranian working class, by the progressive elements, and especially by the students and the poor and middle peasantry. 

The Marxist-Leninists will be committing a mistake if they do not understand the situation created and do not utilize it in the right way, if they come out as anti-religious fighters and thus damage their anti-imperialist and anti-feudal unity with the followers of Ayatollah Khomeini and the followers of Mossadeq’s, Bazargan’s or others’ anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic parties and movements.

Although anti-religious in their principles, the Iranian Marxist-Leninists must not for the moment wage a struggle against the religious beliefs of the people who have risen in revolt against oppression and are waging a just struggle politically, but are still unformed ideologically and will have to go through a great school in which they will learn. The Marxist-Leninists must teach the people to assess the events that are taking place in the light of dialectical and historical materialism. However, our world outlook cannot be assimilated easily in isolation from the revolutionary drive of the masses or from the anti-imperialist trends that are trying to remain in the leadership and to manoeuvre to prevent the bourgeois-democratic reforms of the revolution. The Iranian Marxist-Leninists and working class must play a major role in those revolutionary movements, having a clear understanding of the moments they are going through; they must not let the revolution die down. The working class and its true Marxist-Leninist vanguard should have no illusions about the “deep-going” bourgeois-democratic measures and reforms which the Shia clergy or the anti-Shah elements of the old and new national bourgeoisie might carry out. Certainly, if the working class, the poor peasantry and the progressive students, whether believers or non-believers, allow the impetus of the revolution to ebb away, which means that they do not proceed with determination and maturity towards alliances and activities conducive to successive political and socio-economic reforms, then the revolution will stop halfway, the masses will be disillusioned and the exploitation of them will continue in other forms by pseudo-democratic people linked in new alliances with the different imperialists. 

These special new revolutionary situations which are developing among the peoples of Islamic religious beliefs must be studied, conclusions must be drawn from them and new forms of struggle, action and alliances must be found. These revolutionary situations are much more advanced than those in Europe and Asia and, to some degree, even Latin America, where the revolutionary movements have assumed a petrified form, linked with and led by reformist and counter-revolutionary social-democracy and modern revisionism.

For instance, we do not see such revolts of a marked revolutionary political spirit occur in Europe where there is a big and powerful proletariat. For what reasons? For all those reasons which are known and have to do with the grave counter-revolutionary influence and sabotage of social-democracy and modern revisionism. The question is not that there is no exploitation on our continent, and therefore there are no movements. No, here, too, there is exploitation and there are movements, but they are of another nature. They are not “very deep-going, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movements” which are waiting “for the situation to ripen,” etc., as the social-democrats, revisionists and other lackeys of the capitalist bourgeoisie describe them. No, the capitalist bourgeoisie itself and its lackeys do not permit such situations to ripen, do not permit such occurrences as are going on at present in the Arab-Moslem countries, where the revolutionary masses rise in struggle and create difficult situations for imperialism, feudalism and the cosmopolitan capitalist bourgeoisie.

Some claim that the Arab peoples and the peoples of the other Moslem countries are moving, because they are “poor!” Indeed, they are poor. But those who say this must admit that they themselves have become bourgeois and that is why they do not rise against oppression and exploitation, while the truth is that capitalism barbarously oppresses and exploits the peoples everywhere, without exception.

It is claimed, also, that in the countries of Islamic religion, the “masses are backward,” therefore, they are easily set in motion. This means that those who support this reasoning have degenerated and are not for revolution, because at a time when capitalism is in decay, honest people must be revolutionary and rise in struggle against capitalism, aiming the weapons they posses against it. Here, in Europe, however, we do not see such a thing. On the contrary, we see the “theory” of adaptation to the existing situation being preached.

Political debates are organized all over the capitalist countries. It has become fashionable for the social-democrats, the Christian-democrats, the revisionists and all sorts of other people in these countries to talk about “revolution” and allegedly revolutionary actions, and each of them tries in his own way to confuse and mislead the working masses with these slogans. The “leftists” scream for “revolutionary measures,” but immediately set the limits, “explaining” that “revolutionary measures must not be undertaken everywhere and in all fields,” but that only “certain changes must be made,” that is, a few crumbs must be thrown to the masses, who are demanding radical revolutionary changes, in order to deceive them and to hinder and sabotage the revolutionary drive of the masses.

We must analyse these situations and phenomena in theoretical articles or in other forms and with other means of our propaganda on the Marxist-Leninist course, with the aim of explaining the essence of the revolt and uprisings of peoples against imperialism, neo-colonialism and local rulers, of explaining the question of the survival of old religious traditions, etc. This does not rule out our support for liberation movements, because such movements occurred even before the time of Marx, as mentioned above. To wait until religion is first eliminated and carry out the revolution only after this, is not in favour of the revolution or the peoples. 

In the situation today, the people who have risen in revolt and believe in religion are no longer at the stage of consciousness of Spartacus, who rose against the Roman Empire, against the slave-owners, but they are seething with revolt against the barbarous oppression and exploitation and policy of imperialism and social-imperialism. The slaves’ revolt led by Spartacus, as Marx and Engels explain, was progressive, as were the beginnings of Christianity.

In these very important situations we see that the other peoples of Africa have risen, too, but not with the force and revolutionary drive of the Arab peoples, the Iranians, etc. This is another problem which must be examined in order to find the reasons why they, too, do not rise and why they are not inspired to the same level as the peoples that I mentioned. It is true that the African peoples are oppressed, too, indeed, much more oppressed than the Arab peoples, the Iranians and others. Likewise, Marxism has still not spread to the proper extent in Africa, and then there is also the influence of religion, although not on the same scale as in the Moslem countries. Work must be done in Africa to disseminate the Marxist-Leninist theory more extensively and deeply. That is even more virgin terrain, with oppressed peoples, amongst whom the sense of religion is still in an infantile stage. There are peoples in Africa who still believe in the heavenly powers of the sun, the moon, magic, etc., they have pagan beliefs which have not crystallized into an ideology and a concrete theology such as the Moslem religion, let alone the Christian or Buddhist religions and their sects. Although there is savage oppression and exploitation in Africa, the movement in this region of the world is developing more slowly. This is because the level of social development in Africa is lower. 

If we take these questions and examine them in unity, we shall see that at the present stage of development, Islam as a whole is playing an active role in the anti-imperialist liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples, while in the European countries and some other countries where the Catholic religion operates, preaching the submissive Christian philosophy of “turn the other cheek,” its leaders take a reactionary stand and try to hinder the movement, therevolt, the uprising of the masses for national and social liberation. Of course, in those countries the oppressive power of the bourgeoisie and capitalism, social-democracy and modern revisionism is greater, but the Catholic religion, too, serves to suppress the revolutionary spirit of the masses in order to keep the situation in stagnation.

From the stand-point of economic development the Moslem peoples have been held back; as a consequence of colonialist occupation and colonialist and neo-colonialist exploitation in past decades the Moslem religion in those countries was suppressed by the Catholic or Protestant religions which were represented by the foreign invaders, a thing which has not passed without consequences and without resistance, and herein we might find a political and ideological-religious reason for the anti-imperialist revolution of the Moslem peoples.

The question presents itself that we should look at the present stage of development of the Moslem religion as compared with past centuries. The development of human society has exerted an influence that has made the Moslem religious belief less and less functional. That is, it has been infiltrated by a certain liberalism which is apparent in the fact that, while the Moslem believer truly believes in the Islamic religion, today he is no longer like the believer of the Middle Ages or the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Today the veiled women in the Moslem countries have those same feelings which our veiled women had before Liberation, as for example in Kavaja [town in central Albania – E.S.] although, of course, not completely those of women as progressive as ours were. Nevertheless, the feelings of revolt exist deep in their hearts, and are expressed to the extent that public opinion permits. Today the Iranian women are involved in the broad movement of the Iranian people against the Shah and imperialism.

Hence, we see that religious oppression exists in the countries with Moslem populations, too, but the religion itself has undergone a certain evolution, especially in its outward manifestations. Let me make this quite clear, religion has not disappeared in those countries, but a time has come in which the spirit of revolt, on the one hand, and the liberalization of the religion, on the other, are impelling people who believe in the Islamic dogmas to rise against those who call themselves religious and want to exercise the former norms of the religion in order to suppress the peoples and keep them in poverty. Their struggle against imperialists, whom they continue to call infidels, that is, their enemies, enemies of their religion, is linked precisely with this. These peoples understand that the foreign occupiers are people of Catholic or Protestant beliefs who want to oppress both countries and religions. The westerners call this religious antagonism, which also contains the class antagonism against foreign occupiers, simply a religious struggle, or apply other incorrect denigrating epithets to it. This is how they are treating the liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples of Arab and non-Arab countries in Asia and Africa today and even the liberation struggle of the Irish people, most of whom are Catholics, against the British occupiers who are Protestants. At the same time, we see incorrect manifestations also among the Moslem peoples who have risen in revolt. They, too, say: “The Giaours, unscrupulous people who are against our religion, are oppressing us,” etc. In this way they link the question of national liberation with the religious question, that is, they see the social and economic oppression which is imposed on them by imperialism as religious oppression. In the future the other Moslem peoples will certainly reach that stage of development which the people of Algeria, Syria and some other countries have reached on these matters. 

These struggles lead not only to increased sympathy for the peoples who rise in revolt, but also to unity with them, because they are all Moslems. If a people rise against imperialism and the reactionary chiefs ruling their country, who use religion as a means of oppression, this uprising destroys the sense of religion even among those who believe in it at the moment. When a people rise in insurrection against oppression, then the revolutionary sentiment is extended and deepened and people reach the stage which makes them think somewhat more clearly about the question of religion. Until yesterday the poor peasant in Iran said only “inshallah!” and comforted himself with this, but now he understands that nothing can be gained through “inshallah!” In the past all these peoples said, “Thus it has been decreed,” but now the masses of believers have risen united and come out in the streets, arms in hand, to demand their rights and freedom. And certainly, when they demand to take the land, the peasants in those countries will undoubtedly have to do battle for the great possessions of the religious institutions, that is, with the clergy. That is why the sinister forces of reaction are making such a great fuss about the fanatical aspect, about the question of putting the women back under the veil, etc., etc., because they are trying to discredit the Iranian revolution, because imperialism and world capitalism have a colossal support in religion. This is how matters stand with the Vatican, too, with the policy of that great centre of the most reactionary world obscurantism, with the mentality and outlook of Catholics. But the revolution disperses the religious fog. This will certainly occur with the Arab peoples, with the other Moslem peoples, who are rising in insurrection, and with the peoples of other faiths, that is, there will be progress towards the disappearance, the elimination of religious beliefs and the religious leadership. This is a major problem.

Here we are talking about whole peoples who are rising in revolt in the Moslem countries, whether Arab or otherwise. There are no such movements in Europe. On this continent social-democratic reformist parties and forces operate. The number of Marxist-Leninist parties here is still small, while there are big revisionist parties, which operate contrary to people’s interests and sentiments, have lost credibility among the masses, and support capitalism, imperialism and social-imperialism. The Moslem peoples of the Arab and non-Arab countries trust neither the American imperialists nor the Soviet social-imperialists, because they represent great powers which are struggling to oppress and plunder the Moslem peoples; also, as Moslems they put no trust in the religious beliefs of those powers.

As a result, the uprising which is developing in Iran and Afghanistan is bound to have consequences throughout the Moslem world. Hence, if the Marxist-Leninist groups, our comrades in these and other countries of this region properly understand the problems emerging from the events in Iran, Afghanistan and other Moslem countries, then all the possibilities exist for them to do much work. However, they must work cautiously there. In those countries religion cannot be eliminated with directives, extremist slogans or erroneous analyses. In order to find the truth we must analyse the activity of those forces in the actual circumstances, because many things, true and false, are being said about them, as is occurring with Ayatollah Khomeini, too. True, he is religious, but regardless of this, analysis must be made of his anti-imperialist attitudes and actions, which, willy-nilly, bring grist to the mill of the revolution. 

This whole development of events is very interesting. Here the question of religion is entangled with political issues, in the sympathy and solidarity between peoples. What I mean is that if the leadership of a certain country were to rise against the revolt of the Iranian people, then it would lose its political positions within the country and the people would rise in opposition, accuse the government of links with the United States of America, with the “giaours,” because they are against Islam. This is because these peoples see Islam as progressive, while the United States represents that force which oppresses them, not only from the social aspect but also from the spiritual aspect. That is why we see that none of these countries is coming out openly to condemn the events in Iran.

Another obstacle which reaction is using to sabotage the revolution of the Iranian people is that of inciting feuds and raising the question of national minorities. Reaction is inciting the national sentiments in Azerbaijan, inciting the Kurds, etc., etc., in order to weaken this great anti-imperialist and “pro-Moslem” uprising of the Iranian people. The incitement of national sentiments has been and is a weapon in the hands of imperialism and social-imperialism and all reaction to sabotage the anti-imperialist and national liberation wars. Therefore, the thesis of our Party that the question of settling the problems of national minorities is not a major problem at present, is correct. Now the Kurds, the Tadjiks, the Azerbaijanis and others ought to rise in struggle against imperialism and its lackeys and, if possible, rise according to the teachings and inspiration of Marxism-Leninism. The Kurds, the Tadjiks and the Azerbaijanis who live in the Soviet Union and are oppressed and enslaved today, must rise, first of all, against Russian social-imperialism.

In broad outline this is how the situation in these regions presents itself and these are some of the problems which emerge. The events will certainly develop further. Our task is to analyse these situations and events which are taking place in the Moslem world, using the Marxist-Leninist theory as the basis, and to define our stands so that they assist a correct understanding of these events, and thus, make our contribution to the successful development of the people’s revolutionary movement.

Enver Hoxha, “Reflections on the Middle East,” Tirana; 1984; pp. 355-392

ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): Final Declaration of the 18th International Seminar, Problems of the Revolution in Latin America: The Current International Situation and the Tasks of the Revolutionaries

In the midst of joy and enthusiasm, the 18th International Seminar, Problems of the Revolution in Latin America, was closed. The event was held with the participation of 28 organizations from 15 countries; it is estimated that about 1500 people attended the seminar during its 5 days. The fruit of the hard work of the last week is attested to below:

With an air of apparent tranquillity and optimism, the economic analysts of the international bourgeoisie announced to the world that the economic crisis that broke out in 2008 had come to an end and a period of capitalist recovery loomed. Indeed, demonstrations of a small economic recovery can be seen in some countries, such as the United States and Germany, but at the same time, other economies are suffering new setbacks. During these years, the centre of the crisis has been moving from one region to another; its economic effects are still present around the world accompanied by the intensification of political and social conflicts.

The world is the scene of acute social-political confrontation between the peoples and the ruling classes, between dependent countries and imperialist states, and among imperialist powers themselves which are fiercely contesting control of areas of influence, markets, natural resources of the dependent countries, etc. This explains the political-military conflicts that are taking place in various parts of the world, such as Ukraine, Syria or the Middle East.

In this agitated world, the workers, youth and peoples in general are making their way with their struggles, seeking to affirm the historic leading role that they deserve.

The onslaught of capital to place the burden of the crisis on the backs of the workers has clashed with the combative response of the peoples in Europe. From the other side of the ocean, the Latin American peoples have watched with joy and optimism the general strikes, street demonstrations, the combative days of struggle that have spread throughout Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Germany, etc. that is, in almost the whole old continent. In this practice of mass struggle the revolutionary organizations are redoubling their efforts to provide the right direction to these fights, contending with right-wing and opportunist forces that see in such circumstances the opportunity to provide political solutions to the crisis without affecting the framework of the bourgeois institutions.

Faced with the savage mechanisms and levels of capitalist exploitation in Asia and Africa, the response of workers is to strike. Thousands, tens of thousands of workers, miners and agricultural workers are stopping work in companies that are mostly subsidiaries of imperialist transnationals.

The American continent, which at one point in history committed itself to taking up arms to defeat colonial domination, is also the scene of popular protests, of acute political confrontations and inter-imperialist disputes.

The course of the so-called progressive governments is showing serious problems. The public and social work that they were able to develop in previous years due to the unusual income from the sale of raw materials on the international market, now has difficulties in continuing: the economic problems are causing havoc. In their search for resources they have opted for doing what the bourgeoisie in power has traditionally done, prostrating themselves before international financial capital and putting their hands in the pockets of the workers.

Chinese, Russian, Canadians and U.S. capital are flowing into this region to engage in mining, oil, energy projects, etc., or through loans that, in one case or another, maintain an existing state of economic dependence. Several of these “progressive” governments, in the name of a supposed anti-U.S. attitude, are actually carrying forward a renegotiation of dependency on China in particular.

In many aspects of economic and political practice there is no major difference between the “progressive” governments and the openly right- wing ones. Both apply policies and laws to restrict or even eliminate the rights of the workers and peoples – with different labels but identical purposes; “anti-terrorists” laws are passed that seek to prevent popular protest through its criminalization; they coincide in promoting extractive and agro-energy projects that plunder our wealth and cause disastrous and irreversible consequences to nature.

Of course, there are more examples of the application of anti-people and anti-national policies; therefore the discontent and struggle of the workers, youth and peoples are growing… and repression as well. In the Americas, as in other parts of the world, the increasingly reactionary nature of the state is a fact that, however, strikes the struggle of the people in the most varied forms.

Faced with this reality, and bearing in mind that the reason for existence of the revolutionary forces is to organize the leading role of the masses in the revolution, we the participants in this International Seminar commit our struggle to defend the immediate and strategic interests of the workers and peoples, and to defend national sovereignty under the sign of class independence.

We reaffirm the principle of the unity of the workers and people as the fundamental basis to defeat their common enemy, anti-imperialist unity to carry through our struggle successfully.

We work for the revolutionary ideas to open the way and take root in the consciousness of the peoples; therefore it is essential to confront and defeat the ruling classes and imperialism in the ideological field. It is not enough to fight the openly reactionary and right-wing positions; it is fundamental to unmask the pseudo-leftist and opportunist theses and positions that operate in the popular movement to make it work for pro-capitalist projects in the name of supposed revolutions of the 21st century.

We take as our own the struggles of the workers and peoples that are developing in whatever part of the world, therefore we are in solidarity with them all. In particular, we raise our voices and our fists with indignation against the genocide being carried out by the Zionist state of Israel with Yankee support against the Palestinian people: our solidarity with the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people to regain their territory and their right to self-determination. Our voices of support go out to the Venezuelan people fighting to defend the democratic gains made in recent years, and our condemnation of the interventionist and destabilizing action of U.S. imperialism and the bourgeoisie of that country. We stand with the people of Ukraine who are victims of the ambitions of domestic corrupt and reactionary groups and of conflicts between foreign powers.

We demand freedom for the people’s fighters, for the political prisoners and political prisoners of war and for all victims of repression prosecuted for their beliefs in different parts of the world.

These views, the result of an open and respectful debate in the context of the 18th International Seminar, Problems of the Revolution in Latin America, held in Quito, we present to the peoples of Latin America and of the world.

Our objective is the social and national revolution, the liberation of all mankind from the yoke of capital: that purpose we direct our best efforts.

Quito, August 1, 2014

Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina
Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Party of Argentina
Coordinator of Neighbourhood Unity – Teresa Rodriguez Movement, Argentina
Revolutionary Communist Party of Brazil
Olga Benario Women’s Movement – Brazil
Class Struggle Movement – Brazil
Democratic Constituent Movement – Colombia
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Maoist Communist Party of Colombia
Communist Party of Labour – Dominican Republic
Dominican Association of Teachers
Revolutionary Popular Front – Mexico
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Peruvian Communist Party Marxist-Leninist
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Caribbean and Latin American Coordinator of Puerto Rico
Bolshevik Communist Party (Russia)
Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist)
Workers’ Party of Turkey
Bolshevik Communist Party (Ukraine)
Party of Communists of the United States
February 28th Revolutionary Organization – Uruguay
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Popular Front – Ecuador
Democratic Popular Movement – Ecuador
Revolutionary Youth of Ecuador
Ecuadorian Confederation of Women for Change
Revolutionary Front of the University Left – Ecuador

Source

ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): Statement of the Meeting of Marxist-Leninist Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean: The Awakening of the Struggle of the Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean Demands a Revolutionary Leadership

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Latin America is the scene of a new wave of social protest. It is the response that the workers, the youth and the peoples are making to the unfulfilled promises, the anti-popular policies, the rampant corruption in the upper echelons of governments, the handing over of the natural resources to foreign capital, in short, to the old and new economic and political programmes that seek to affirm the rule of capital.

The current struggle overcomes the temporary state of decreased level of struggle of the peoples that occurred, particularly in those countries in which the so-called “progressive” governments emerged that generated expectations and hopes that things would change in favour of the workers and peoples, but after a few years we are witnessing processes that show them to be instruments in the service of one or another bourgeois faction and of foreign capital.

Not surprisingly, we find a kind of political agreement among virtually all governments in the region in key aspects of economic and political management as well as on the implementation of tax measures that punish the working classes with direct and indirect taxes, the support of extractive industry as the way to obtain economic resources, the implementation of reforms in various spheres such as labour that aim to legalize mechanisms of capitalist super-exploitation and to affect the right of the workers to free trade union organization.

They also agree on the implementation of measures of social control, through judicial reforms and the adoption and implementation of laws that, in the name of public security, essentially aim at the criminalization of social protest.

Through clearly neo-liberal programmes in some cases, and through “progressives” social programmes that even speak of revolution and socialism in others, the bourgeois factions in power are interested in pursuing a process of capitalist modernization in the region that would allow them to obtain higher levels of accumulation, and to count on better resources to intervene in the world capitalist market. In this process, we note the loss of political space by U.S. imperialism, which has traditionally considered Latin America and the Caribbean as its back yard, and we find the aggressive penetration of Chinese imperialist capital. Thus, in several countries, we are faced with a kind of renegotiation of foreign dependence.

In the midst of a severe economic crisis that shook the global economy, the countries in this region were able to avoid some of its effects due to high prices of raw materials produced here, as well as certain established tax policies that have allowed most of the governments to count on sufficient economic resources to develop a social and material project that, in the minds of broad sectors of the population, have created the fiction that we are indeed living in times of change, putting their spirit of protests and struggle to sleep.

However, this situation is changing. The repressed dissatisfaction and the desire for change in millions of workers, youths, women, peasants, etc. are making themselves felt and breaking out.

The struggle that the Brazilian youths and people have been carrying out these days, which in two weeks brought more than 2 million people into the streets and won victories in several states, shows us this. It is not the 20 cents [the increase in bus fare that sparked the Brazilian protests – translator’s note] that stimulates this whole fight! The people are fed up with corruption, low wages and the handing over of the oil resources to foreign capital; they want hospitals, jobs, schools and decent housing; they reject the policy of privatization; they repudiate the spending of millions of dollars on the World Cup from which small local groups and various foreign monopolies will reap huge profits. The youth took to the streets overcoming repression and the supposedly conciliatory discourse of the government and the warning to be careful because protest can lead to a coup and the right, by means of which the government wanted to prevent the right to protest.

For months, Chilean youth have been carrying on a massive and militant struggle. They are raising concrete demands around educational issues and at the same time they are clashing with the government of Sebastian Pinera. This fight has motivated other social sectors to fight for their own demands, causing a political crisis that forecasts the loss by the forces that are now in the government in the upcoming presidential election.

In Argentina the struggle of the urban and agricultural workers, the youth, the state employees and the unemployed is also gaining strength.

In several countries, such as Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia the fights against the extractive policies, particularly against open pit and large-scale mining that cause enormous damage to nature and the peoples of these regions and are a source of millions in profits to foreign capitalist enterprises, are taking shape and gaining strength. They are also demanding better living conditions, access to health care, education, continuation of democratic rights and are condemning the criminalization of social protest.

In Central America, the struggles of the peasants and residents of popular neighbourhoods (Honduras), of retirees (Nicaragua), of state employees (Costa Rica), etc. are also taking place.

In the Dominican Republic the struggle of teachers for the implementation of the state budget for education, as well as the popular mobilization against foreign mining companies that are taking the country’s wealth, and against the scandalous corruption at the highest levels of government, stand out.

The teachers, the student youth and the workers of several state companies in Mexico have been at the head of major combat actions against both the current and the former government, pawns of the neo-liberal IMF policies.

The political struggle in Venezuela, in which broad contingents of the masses are involved, is shown particularly in the defence of the gains achieved during the government of Hugo Chavez, in the confrontation with the right-wing that is trying to end the process taking place, and in the demand that deeper social and political measures be taken to benefit the workers and people.

The protest actions that are taking place in Latin America, together with those in Europe, in northern Africa and other parts of the world, show us a world in upheaval.

In these circumstances, we Marxist-Leninist communist parties present our policies and energies to build up revolutionary forces. In many of the fights described above we have been present, playing our role; however we are aware that we need to develop our abilities much further in order to lead those fights along the path that leads to the triumph of the revolution and socialism.

As a result of a major offensive promoted by imperialism, by various right-wing sectors, by revisionism and opportunism, the workers and peoples show a strong ideological acceptance that leads them to trust the discourse and social programmes that do not go beyond the scope of reformism and bourgeois democracy.

We are working to reverse this situation and to win the masses towards revolutionary politics, to strategic proposals and those that we are putting forward in the present situation. For that purpose we will increase our efforts in propaganda actions and mass work.

We will continue fighting together with our people, contending for political leadership and directing them towards new, higher struggles for their material and political demands, against imperialist interference and in order to play the role of the basic revolutionary force to which history has entrusted them.

We will provide the force to the movement promoting its unity, both in the social and popular movement, as well as at the level of political organizations of the left.

Our commitment to the revolution and socialism raises the need for us to more rapidly achieve the strengthening and development of our party structure. The political circumstances demand from our organizations greater skill in developing policies that will be embraced by the masses, but we also need sufficient force for their materialization. We are working for this, in order to establish our position as revolutionary vanguard.

The workers and the people of the Americas and the world are challenging the rulers, they are seeking change, they are fighting for it; we Marxist-Leninists have the responsibility to fight together with them and lead these changes to fruition, to the triumph of the revolution and socialism.

Quito, July 2013

Revolutionary Communist Party (Brazil)
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Labour – Dominican Republic
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Peruvian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela

En Marcha #1620
July 19-25, 2013

Michael Parenti on “Left” Support for the Democratic Party

 

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“Left anticommunists find any association with communist organizations to be morally unacceptable because of the ‘crimes of communism.’ Yet many of them are themselves associated with the Democratic Party in this country, either as voters or members, seemingly unconcerned about the morally unacceptable political crimes committed by leaders of that organization.

Under one or another Democratic administration, 120,000 Japanese Americans were torn from their homes and livelihoods and thrown into detention camps; atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with an enormous loss of innocent life; the FBI was given authority to infiltrate political groups; the Smith Act was used to imprison leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and later on leaders of the Communist Party for their political beliefs; detention camps were established to round up political dissidents in the event of a ‘national emergency'; during the late 1940s and 1950s, eight thousand federal workers were purged from government because of their political associations and views, with thousands more in all walks of life witchhunted out of their careers; the Neutrality Act was used to impose an embargo on the Spanish Republic that worked in favor of Franco’s fascist legions; homicidal counterinsurgency programs were initiated in various Third World countries; and the Vietnam War was pursued and escalated. And for the better part of a century, the Congressional leadership of the Democratic Party protected racial segregation and stymied all anti-lynching and fair employment bills.

Yet all these crimes, bringing ruination and death to many, have not moved the liberals, the social democrats, and the ‘democratic socialist’ anticommunists to insist repeatedly that we issue blanket condemnations of either the Democratic Party or the political system that produced it, certainly not with the intolerant fervor that has been directed against existing communism.”

– Michael Parenti, “Blackshirts and Reds,” p. 48-49.

Enver Hoxha on the Revolutionary and Reactionary Potential of Religion

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“It is clear that the peoples of this region are Moslems and when we say this we have in mind the fact that the majority of them are believers, but their belief is relative and does not predominate over politics. There are also progressive people there who believe in and respect the Koran and religion more as a custom and tradition. When we speak about the overwhelming majority, we have in mind that part of the people to whom the Moslem religion has been presented as a liberal progressive religion which serves the interests of the people and to whom everything preached in its name ‘is for the good of the people,’ because ‘to wash, to pray and to fast is for the benefit of the health, the physical strengthening and spiritual satisfaction of man,’ etc., etc. In other words, people are told that the rites of this religion are ‘useful’ not only for this life but also for the ‘next life,’ after death. This is preached openly. However, the poverty and oppression, schooling and a certain political development have shaken the foundations of this belief.

In general, from all these events and developments, we see that the imperialists and the social-imperialists are in difficulties in these regions of the world. It is understandable that their puppets, likewise, are in difficulties. Both for the former and for the latter it is the progressive, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal revolutionary movement of the popular masses of the Moslem Arab peoples, whether Shia or Sunni, that is the cause of these great difficulties. The whole situation in this region is positive, good, and indicates a revolutionary situation and a major movement of these peoples. At the same time, though, we see efforts made by the enemies of these peoples to restrain this movement or to alter its direction and intensity.

Hence, we must regard these situations, these movements and uprisings of these peoples as revolutionary social movements, irrespective that at first sight they have a religious character or that believers or non-believers take part in them, because they are fighting against foreign imperialism and neo-colonialism or the local monarchies and oppressive feudalism. History gives us many positive examples in this direction when broad revolutionary movements of the popular masses have had a religious character outwardly. Among them. we can list the Babist movements in Iran 1848-1851; the Wahabi movement in India which preceded the great popular uprising against the British colonizers in the years 1857-1859; the peasant movements at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century which swept most of the countries of Europe and especially Germany. The Reformation itself, although dressed in a religious cloak, represented a broad socio-political movement against the feudal system and the Catholic Church which defended that system.”

– Enver Hoxha, “Reflections on the Middle East,” page 367-369.

On the 100th anniversary of World War I

YourCountryNeedsYou

The following entry is from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.

 – E.S.

World War I (1914–18) 

an imperialist war between two coalitions of capitalist powers for a redivision of the already divided world (a repartition of colonies, spheres of influence, and spheres for the investment of capital) and for the enslavement of other peoples. At first, the war involved eight European states: Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro. Later, most of the countries in the world entered the war (see Table 1). A total of four states fought on the side of the Austro-German bloc; 34 states, including four British dominions and the colony of India, all of which signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, took part on the side of the Entente. On both sides, the war was aggressive and unjust. Only in Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro did it include elements of a war of national liberation.

Although imperialists from all the principal belligerent powers were involved in unleashing the war, the party chiefly to blame was the German bourgeoisie, who began World War I at the “moment it thought most favorable for war, making useof its latest improvements in military matériel and forestalling the rearmament already planned and decided upon by Russia and France” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 16).

The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by Serbian nationalists on June 15 (28), 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. German imperialists decided to take advantage of this favorable moment to unleash the war. Under German pressure, Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia on July 10 (23). Although the Serbian government agreed to meet almost all of the demands in the ultimatum, Austria-Hungary broke diplomatic relations with Serbia on July 12 (25) and declared war on Serbia on July 15 (28). Belgrade, the Serbian capital, was shelled. On July 16 (29), Russia began mobilization in the military districts bordering on Austria-Hungary and on July 17 (30) proclaimed a general mobilization. On July 18 (31), Germany demanded that Russia halt its mobilization and, receiving no reply, declared war on Russia on July 19 (Aug. 1). Germany declared war on France and Belgium on July 21 (Aug. 3). On July 22 (Aug. 4), Great Britain declared war on Germany. The British dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa) and Britain’s largest colony, India, entered the war on the same day. On Aug. 10 (23), Japan declared war on Germany. Italy formally remained a member of the Triple Alliance but declared its neutrality on July 20 (Aug. 2), 1914.

Causes of the war. At the turn of the 20th century capitalism was transformed into imperialism. The world had been almost completely divided up among the largest powers. The uneven-ness of the economic and political development of various countries became more marked. The states that had been late in embarking on the path of capitalist development (the USA, Germany, and Japan) advanced rapidly, competing successfully on the world market with the older capitalist countries (Great Britain and France) and persistently pressing for a repartition of the colonies. The most acute conflicts arose between Germany and Great Britain, whose interests clashed in many parts of the globe, especially in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East, focal points of German imperialism’s trade and colonial expansion. The construction of the Baghdad Railroad aroused grave alarm in British ruling circles. The railroad would provide Germany with direct route through the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf and guarantee Germany an important position in the Middle East, thus threatening British land and sea communications with India.

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France, rooted in the desire of German capitalists to secure permanent possession of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been taken from France as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, and in the determination of the French to regain these provinces. French and German interests also clashed on the colonial issue. French attempts to seize Morocco met with determined resistance from Germany, which also claimed this territory.

Contradictions between Russia and Germany began to increase in the late 19th century. The expansion of German imperialism in the Middle East and its attempts to establish control over Turkey infringed on Russian economic, political, and strategic interests. Germany used its customs policy to limit the importation of grain from Russia, imposing high duties while simultaneously making sure that German industrial goods could freely penetrate the Russian market.

In the Balkans, there were profound contradictions between Russia and Austria-Hungary, caused primarily by the expansion of the Hapsburg monarchy, with Germany’s support, into the neighboring South Slav lands (Bosnia, Hercegovina, and Serbia). Austria-Hungary intended to establish its superiority in the Balkans. Russia, which supported the struggle of the Balkan peoples for freedom and national independence, considered the Balkans its own sphere of influence. The tsarist regime and the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie wanted to take over the Bosporus and Dardanelles to strengthen their position in the Balkans.

There were many disputed issues between Great Britain and France, Great Britain and Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and Turkey and Italy, but they were secondary to the principal contradictions, which existed between Germany and its rivals— Great Britain, France, and Russia. The aggravation and deepening of these contradictions impelled the imperialists toward a repartition of the world, but “under capitalism, the repartitioning of ‘world domination’ could only take place at the price of a world war” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 34, p. 370).

The class struggle and the national liberation movement grew stronger during the second decade of the 20th century. The Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia had an enormous influence on the upsurge in the struggle of the toiling people for their social and national liberation. There was considerable growth in the working-class movement in Germany, France, and Great Britain. The class struggle reached its highest level in Russia, where a new revolutionary upsurge began in 1910 and an acute political crisis ripened. National liberation movements grew broader in Ireland and Alsace (the Zabern affair, 1913), and the struggle of the enslaved peoples of Austria-Hungary became more extensive. The imperialists sought to use war to suppress the developing liberation movement of the working class and oppressed peoples in their own countries and to arrest the world revolutionary process.

For many years the imperialists prepared for a world war as a means of resolving foreign and domestic contradictions. The initial step was the formation of a system of military-political blocs, beginning with the Austro-German Agreement of 1879, under which the signatories promised to render assistance to each other in case of war with Russia. Seeking support in its struggle with France for possession of Tunisia, Italy joined Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1882. Thus, the Triple Alliance of 1882, or the alliance of the Central Powers, took shape in central Europe. Initially directed against Russia and France, it later included Great Britain among its main rivals.

To counterbalance the Triple Alliance, another coalition of European powers began to develop. The Franco-Russian Alliance of 1891–93 provided for joint actions by the two countries in case of aggression by Germany or by Italy and Austria-Hungary supported by Germany. The growth of German economic power in the early 20th century forced Great Britain to gradually renounce its traditional policy of splendid isolation and seek rapprochement with France and Russia. The Anglo-French agreement of 1904 settled various colonial disputes between Great Britain and France, and the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 reinforced the understanding between Russia and Great Britain regarding their policies in Tibet,Afghanistan, and Iran. These documents created the Triple Entente (or agreement), a bloc opposed to the Triple Alliance and made up of Great Britain, France, and Russia. In 1912, Anglo-French and Franco-Russian naval conventions were signed, and in 1913 negotiations were opened for an Anglo-Russian naval convention.

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The formation of military-political groupings in Europe, as well as the arms race, further aggravated imperialist contradictions and increased international tensions. A relatively tranquil period of world history was followed by an epoch that was“much more violent, spasmodic, disastrous, and conflicting” (ibid., vol. 27, p. 94). The worsening of imperialist contradictions was evident in the Moroccan crises of 1905–06 and 1911, the Bosnian crisis of 1908–09, the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, and the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. In December 1913, Germany provoked a major international conflict by sending a military mission under the command of General O. Liman von Sanders to Turkey to reorganize and train the Turkish Army.

In preparation for a world war the ruling circles of the imperialist states established powerful war industries, based on large state plants: armaments, explosives, and ammunition plants, as well as shipyards. Private enterprises were drawn into the production of military goods: Krupp in Germany, Skoda in Austria-Hungary, Schneider-Creusot and St. Chamond in France, Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth in Great Britain, and the Putilov Works and other plants in Russia.

The imperialists of the two hostile coalitions put a great deal of effort into building up their armed forces. The achievements of science and technology were placed in the service of war. More sophisticated armaments were developed, including rapid-fire magazine rifles and machine guns, which greatly increased the firepower of the infantry. In the artillery the number of rifled guns of the latest design increased sharply. Of great strategic importance was the development of the railroads, which made it possible to significantly speed up the concentration and deployment of large masses of troops in the theaters of operations and to provide an uninterrupted supply of personnel replacements and matériel to the armies in the field. Motor vehicle transport began to play an increasingly important role, and military aviation began to develop. The use of new means of communication in military affairs, including the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio,facilitated the organization of troop control. The size of armies and trained reserves grew rapidly. (See Table 2 for the composition of the ground forces of the principal warring powers.)

Germany and Great Britain were engaged in a stiff competition in naval armaments. The dreadnought, a new type of ship, was first built in 1905. By 1914 the German Navy was firmly established as the world’s second most powerful navy(after the British). Other countries endeavored to strengthen their navies, but it was not financially and economically possible for them to carry out the shipbuilding programs they had adopted. (See Table 3 for the composition of the naval forces of the principal warring powers.) The costly arms race demanded enormous financial means and placed a heavy burden on the toiling people.

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There was extensive ideological preparation for war. The imperialists attempted to instill in the people the idea that armed conflicts are inevitable, and they tried their hardest to inculcate militarism in the people and incite chauvinism among them. To achieve these aims, all means of propaganda were used—the press, literature, the arts, and the church. Taking advantage of the patriotic feelings of the people, the bourgeoisie in every country justified the arms race and camouflaged aggressive objectives with false arguments on the need to defend the native land against foreign enemies.

The international working class (more than 150 million persons) was a real force capable of significantly restraining the imperialist governments. At the international level, the working-class movement was headed by the Second International,which united 41 Social Democratic parties from 27 countries, with 3.4 million members. However, the opportunist leaders of the European Social Democratic parties did nothing to implement the antiwar decisions of the prewar congresses of the Second International. When the war began, the leaders of the Social Democratic parties of the Western countries came to the support of their governments and voted for military credits in parliament. The socialist leaders of Great Britain (A. Henderson), France (J. Guesde, M. Sembat, and A. Thomas), and Belgium (E. Vandervelde) joined the bourgeois military governments. Ideologically and politically, the Second International collapsed and ceased to exist, breaking up into social chauvinist parties.

Only the left wing of the Second International, with the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin in the vanguard, continued to fight consistently against militarism, chauvinism, and war. The basic principles defining the attitude of revolutionary Marxists toward war were set forth by Lenin in the Manifesto of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, “War and Russian Social Democracy.” Firmly opposed to the war, the Bolsheviks explained its imperialist character to the popular masses. The Bolshevik faction of the Fourth State Duma refused to support the tsarist government and vote for war credits. The Bolshevik Party called on the toiling people of all countries to work for the defeat of their governments in the war, the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war, and the revolutionary overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. A revolutionary, antiwar stance was adopted by the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party (Narrow Socialists), headed by D. Blagoev, G. Dimitrov, and V. Kolarov, and by the Serbian and Rumanian Social Democratic parties. Active opposition to the imperialist war was also shown by a small group of left-wing Social Democrats in Germany, led by K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, C. Zetkin, and F. Mehring; by a few socialists in France, led by J. Jaurès; and by some socialists in other countries.

War plans and strategic deployment. Long before the war began, the general staffs had worked out war plans. All strategic calculations were oriented toward a short, fast-moving war. The German strategic plan provided for rapid, decisive actions against France and Russia. It assumed that France would be crushed in six to eight weeks, after which all German forces would descend on Russia and bring the war to a victorious conclusion. The bulk of German troops (four-fifths) were deployed on the western border of Germany and were designated for the invasion of France. It was their mission to deliver the main attack with the right wing through Belgium and Luxembourg, turning the left flank of the French Army west of Paris and, throwing it back toward the German border, forcing it to surrender. A covering force (one army) was stationed in East Prussia to oppose Russia. The German military command figured that it would be able to crush France and transfer troops to the east before the Russian Army went over to the offensive. The main forces of the German Navy (the High Seas Fleet) were to be stationed at bases in the North Sea. Their mission was to weaken the British Navy with actions using light forces and submarines and then destroy the main British naval forces in a decisive battle. A few cruisers were detailed for operations in the British sea-lanes. In the Baltic Sea the German Navy’s mission was to prevent vigorous actions by the Russian Navy.

The Austro-Hungarian command planned military operations on two fronts: against Russia in Galicia and against Serbia and Montenegro in the Balkans. They did not exclude the possibility of forming a front against Italy, an unreliable member of the Triple Alliance that might go over to the Entente. Consequently, the Austro-Hungarian command drew up three variations of a war plan and divided their ground forces into three operational echelons (groups): group A (nine corps), which was designated for actions against Russia; the “minimum Balkan” group (three corps), which was directed against Serbia and Montenegro; and group B (four corps), the reserve of the supreme command, which could be used either to reinforce the other groups or to form a new front if Italy became an enemy.

The general staffs of Austria-Hungary and Germany maintained close contact with each other and coordinated their strategic plans. The Austro-Hungarian plan for the war against Russia provided for delivering the main attack from Galicia between the Vistula and Bug rivers and moving northeast to meet German forces, which were supposed to develop an offensive at the same time moving southeast from East Prussia toward Siedlce, with the objectives of surrounding and destroying the grouping of Russian troops in Poland. The mission of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which was stationed in the Adriatic Sea, was to defend the coast.

The Russian General Staff worked out two variations of the war plan, both of which were offensive. Under Variation A, the main forces of the Russian Army would be deployed against Austria-Hungary. Variation G was directed against Germany, should it deliver the main attack on the Eastern Front. Variation A, which was actually carried out, planned converging attacks in Galicia and East Prussia, with the aim of destroying the enemy groupings. This phase of the plan would be followed by a general offensive into Germany and Austria-Hungary. Two detached armies were assigned to cover Petrograd and southern Russia. In addition, the Army of the Caucasus was formed in case Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. It was the mission of the Baltic Fleet to defend the sea approaches to Petrograd and prevent the German fleet from breaking through into the Gulf of Finland. The Black Sea Fleet did not have a ratified plan ofaction.

The French plan for the war against Germany (Plan XVII) envisioned going over to the offensive with the forces of the right wing of the armies in Lorraine and with the forces of the left wing against Metz. At first, the possibility of an invasion byGerman forces through Belgium was not taken into account, because Belgian neutrality had been guaranteed by the great powers, including Germany. However, a variation of Plan XVII ratified on Aug. 2, 1914, specified that in case of an offensive by German troops through Belgium, combat operations were to be developed on the left wing up to the line of the Meuse (Maas) River from Namur to Givet. The French plan reflected the lack of confidence of the French command,confronted with a struggle against a more powerful Germany. In fact, the plan made the actions of the French Army dependent on the actions of the German forces. The mission of the French fleet in the Mediterranean Sea was to ensure themovement of colonial troops from North Africa to France by blockading the Austro-Hungarian fleet in the Adriatic Sea. Part of the French fleet was assigned to defend the approaches to the English Channel.

Expecting that military operations on land would be waged by the armies of its allies, Russia and France, Great Britain did not draw up plans for operations by ground forces. It promised only to send an expeditionary corps to the continentto help the French. The navy was assigned active missions: to set up a long-range blockade of Germany on the North Sea, to ensure the security of sea-lanes, and to destroy the German fleet in a decisive battle.

The great powers carried out the strategic deployment of their armed forces in conformity with these plans. Germany moved seven armies (the First through Seventh, consisting of 86 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.6million men and about 5,000 guns) to the border with Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, along a 380-km front from Krefeld to Mulhouse. The main grouping of these forces (five armies) was located north of Metz on a 160-km front. The defense of the northern coast of Germany was assigned to the Northern Army (one reserve corps and four Landwehr brigades). The commander in chief was Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the chief of staff was General H. von Moltke the younger(from Sept. 14, 1914, E. Falkenhayn, and from Aug. 29, 1916, until the end of the war, Field Marshal General P. von Hindenburg).

The French armies (the First through Fifth, consisting of 76 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.73 million men and more than 4,000 guns), which were under the command of General J. J. C. Joffre, were deployed on front of approximately 345 km from Belfort to Hirson. (From December 1916, General R. Nivelle was commander in chief of the French armies, and from May 17, 1917, until the end of the war, General H. Pétain. On May 14, 1918, Marshal F. Foch became supreme commander of Allied forces.) The Belgian Army under the command of King Albert I (six infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 117,000 men and 312 guns) occupied a line east of Brussels. The British Expeditionary Force under the command of Field Marshal J. French (four infantry divisions and 1.5 cavalry divisions, with a total of 87,000 men and 328 guns) was concentrated in the Maubeuge region next to the left flank of the grouping of French armies. (From December 1915 until the end of the war, the British Expeditionary Force was under the command of General D. Haig.) The main grouping of Allied forces was northwest of Verdun.

Against Russia, Germany placed the Eighth Army (14.5 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of more than 200,000 men and 1,044 guns), under the command of General M. von Prittwitz und Gaffron, in East Prussia andGeneral R. von Woyrsch’s Landwehr corps in Silesia (two Landwehr divisions and 72 guns). Austria-Hungary had three armies (the First, Third, and Fourth) on a front from Czernowitz (now Chernovtsy) to Sandomierz. H. Kövess vonKövessháza’s army group (from August 23, the Second Army) was on the right flank, and Kummer’s army group was in the Kraków region (35.5 infantry divisions and 11 cavalry divisions, with about 850,000 men and 1,848 guns). Thesupreme commander in chief was Archduke Frederick. (Emperor Charles I became supreme commander in chief in November 1916.) The Austro-Hungarian chief of staff was Field Marshal General F. Conrad von Hötzendorf (from Feb. 28,1917, General Arz von Straussenburg).

Russia had six armies on its Western border (52 infantry divisions and 21 cavalry divisions, with a total of more than 1 million men and 3,203 guns). Two fronts were formed: the Northwestern Front (First and Second armies) and theSouthwestern Front (Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth armies). The Sixth Army was to defend the Baltic coast and cover Petrograd; the Seventh Army was to defend the northwest coast of the Black Sea and the boundary with Rumania. The divisions of the second strategic echelon and the Siberian divisions arrived at the front later, at the end of August and during September. On July 20 (August 2), Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich was appointed supreme commander in chief.(For a list of his successors, see SUPREME COMMANDER IN CHIEF.) The chiefs of staff of the supreme commander in chief were General N. N. Ianushkevich (July 19 [Aug. 1], 1914, to Aug. 18 [31], 1915) and General M. V. Alekseev (Aug. 18 [31],1915, to Nov. 10 [23], 1916; Feb. 17 [Mar. 2] to Mar. 11 [24], 1917; and Aug. 30 [Sept. 12] to Sept. 9 [22], 1917). At the end of 1916 and during 1917 the duties of chief of staff were temporarily carried out by Generals V. I. Romeiko-Gurko,V. N. Klembovskii, A. I. Denikin, A. S. Lukomskii, and N. N. Dukhonin. From Nov. 20 (Dec. 3), 1917, to Feb. 21, 1918, the chief of staff was M. D. Bonch-Bruevich, whose successors were S I. Kuleshin and M. M. Zagiu.

In the Balkans, Austria-Hungary set two armies against Serbia: the Fifth and Sixth armies, under the command of General O. Potiorek (13 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 140,000 men and 546 guns). Serbiadeployed four armies under the command of Voevoda R. Putnik (the First, Second, Third, and Fourth armies, consisting of 11 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 250,000 men and 550 guns). Montenegro had six infantrydivisions (35,000 men and 60 guns).

The strategic deployment of the armed forces of both sides was basically completed by August 4–6 (17–19). Military operations took place in Europe, Asia, and Africa, on all the oceans, and on many seas. The principal operations tookplace in five theaters of ground operations: Western Europe (from 1914), Eastern Europe (from 1914), Italy (from 1915), the Balkans (from 1914), and the Middle East (from 1914). In addition, military operations were carried out in East Asia (Tsingtao, 1914), on the Pacific islands (Oceania), and in the German colonies in Africa, including German East Africa (until the end of the war), German Southwest Africa (until 1915), Togo (1914), and the Cameroons (until 1916).Throughout the war the chief theaters of ground operations were the Western European (French) and the Eastern European (Russian). Particularly important theaters of naval operations were the North, Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black seas and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.

Campaign of 1914. In the Western European theater, military operations began with the invasion by German troops of Luxembourg (August 2) and Belgium (August 4), the latter having rejected a German ultimatum regarding the passage of German troops through its territory. Relying on the fortified areas of Liège and Namur, the Belgian Army offered the enemy stubborn resistance on the Meuse River line. Abandoning Liège after bitter fighting (August 16), the Belgian Army retreated toward Antwerp. Dispatching about two corps (80,000 men and 300 guns) against the Belgian Army, the German command directed the main grouping of its armies to the southwest, toward the Franco-Belgian border. The French armies of the left flank (the Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies) and the British Army were moved forward to meet the German forces. The Battle of the Frontiers took place on Aug. 21–25, 1914.

In view of the danger of the enemy turning the left flank of the Allied forces, the French command withdrew its armies deeper into the country to gain time to regroup its forces and prepare a counteroffensive. From August 7 to 14 the Frencharmies of the right flank (the First and Second armies) conducted an offensive in Alsace and Lorraine. But with the invasion by German forces of France through Belgium, the French offensive was brought to a halt, and both armies were drawn back to their initial positions. The main grouping of German armies continued its offensive along a southwest axis of advance toward Paris and, winning a series of local victories over the Entente armies at Le Cateau (August 26),Nesle and Proyart (August 28–29), and St. Quentin and Guise (August 29–30), reached the Marne River between Paris and Verdun by September 5. The French command completed the regrouping of its forces and, having formed two newarmies (the Sixth and the Ninth) from reserves, created a superiority of forces in this axis. In the battle of the Marne (Sept. 5–12, 1914), the German troops were defeated and forced to withdraw to the Aisne and Oise rivers, where they dug in and stopped the allied counteroffensive by September 16.

From September 16 to October 15, three operations by maneuver known as the Race to the Sea developed out of the attempts of each side to seize the “free space” west of the Oise and extending to the Pas-de-Calais, by enveloping the enemy’s open flanks on the north. The forces of both sides reached the coast west of Ostend. The Belgian Army, which had been forced to withdraw from Antwerp on October 8, occupied a sector on the left flank of the Allied armies. The battle in Flanders on the Yser and Ypres river (October 15 to November 20) did not change the overall situation. Attempts by the Germans to break through the Allied defense and take the ports on the Pas-de-Calais were unsuccessful.Having suffered considerable losses, both sides stopped active combat actions and dug in on the established lines. A static front was established from the Swiss border to the North Sea. In December 1914 it was 720 km long, with 650 km assigned to the French Army, 50 km to the British, and 20 km to the Belgians.

Military operations in the Eastern European theater began on August 4–7 (17–20), with the invasion of East Prussia by the inadequately prepared troops of the Russian Northwestern Front (commanded by General la. G. Zhilinskii; chief ofstaff, General V. A. Oranovskii). During the East Prussian Operation of 1914 the First Russian Army (General P. K. Rennenkampf, commander), advancing from the east, smashed units of the German I Corps near Stallüponen on August 4(17) and inflicted a defeat on the main forces of the German Eighth Army on August 7 (20) in the battle of Gumbinnen-Goldap. On August 7 (20) the Russian Second Army (commanded by General A. V. Samsonov) invaded East Prussia, delivering an attack on the flank and rear of the German Eighth Army. The commander of the Eighth Army decided to begin a withdrawal of forces from East Prussia beyond the Vistula, but the German supreme command, dissatisfied with this decision, ordered a change in command on August 10 (23), appointing General P. von Hindenburg commander and General E. Ludendorff chief of staff.

The offensive by Russian troops in East Prussia forced the German command to take two corps and one cavalry division from the Western Front and send them to the Eastern Front on August 13 (26). This was one of the causes of the defeat of German forces in the battle of the Marne. Taking advantage of the lack of cooperation between the First and Second armies and the mistakes of the Russian command, the enemy was able to inflict a heavy defeat on the Russian Second Army and then on the First Army and drive them out of East Prussia.

In the battle of Galicia (1914), which took place at the same time as the East Prussian Operation, the troops of the Russian Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General N. I. Ivanov; chief of staff, General M. V. Alekseev) inflicted amajor defeat on the Austro-Hungarian forces. They took L’vov on August 21 (September 3), laid seige to the Przemyśl fortress on September 8 (21), and, pursuing the enemy, reached the Wisłoka River and the foothills of the Carpathians by September 13 (26). A danger arose that Russian forces would invade the German province of Silesia. The German supreme command hurriedly transferred major forces from East Prussia to the region of Częstochowa and Kraków and formed a new army (the Ninth). The objective was to deliver a counter strike against Ivangorod (Dęblin) in the flank and rear of the troops of the Southwestern Front and thus to thwart the attack on Silesia that the Russian forces were preparing. Owing to a timely regrouping of forces carried out by Russian General Headquarters, in the Warsaw-Ivangorod Operation of 1914 the Russian armies stopped the advance of the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army on Ivangorod by September 26 (October 9) and then repulsed the German attack on Warsaw. On October 5 (18), Russian forces went over to the counteroffensive and threw the enemy back to the initial line.

The Russian armies resumed preparations for an invasion of Germany. The German command moved the Ninth Army from the Częstochowa region to the north, having decided to deliver a blow at the right flank and rear of the Russian offensive grouping. In the Łódź Operation of 1914, which began on October 29 (November 11), the enemy succeeded in thwarting the Russian plan, but an attempt to surround the Russian Second and Fifth armies in the Łódź region failed, and German troops were forced to withdraw, suffering heavy losses. At the same time, Russian troops of the Southwestern Front inflicted a defeat on Austro-Hungarian forces in the Częstochowa-Kraków Operation and reached the approaches to Kraków and Częstochowa. Having exhausted their capabilities, both sides went over to the defensive. The Russian armies, which had experienced a critical shortage of ammunition, dug in on the line of the Bzura, Rawka, and Nida rivers.

In the Balkan theater of operations, Austro-Hungarian forces invaded Serbia on August 12. Defeated in a meeting engagement that began on August 16 in the region of Cer Mountain, by August 24 the Austro-Hungarian forces had been thrown back to their initial position beyond the Drina and Sava rivers. On September 7 they renewed the offensive. A shortage of artillery and ammunition forced the Serbs to withdraw on November 7 to the east of the Kolubara River, but after receiving supplies from Russia and France, they went over to the counteroffensive on December 3. By mid-December they had liberated their country from enemy forces. The two sides took up defensive positions on the river boundary lines.

At the end of 1914 hostilities began in the Middle Eastern theater of operations. On July 21 (August 3), Turkey declared its neutrality, waiting and preparing for a convenient moment to come out on the side of the Central Powers. Encouraging Turkey’s aggressive aspirations in the Caucasus, Germany sent the battle cruiser Göben and the light cruiser Breslau to the Black Sea at the war’s beginning (August 10), to support the Turkish Navy. On October 16 (29),Turkish and German ships unexpectedly shelled Odessa, Sevastopol’, Feodosia, and Novorossiisk. On October 20 (November 2), Russia declared war on Turkey, followed by Great Britain (November 5) and France (November 6). Turkey declared a “holy war” against the Entente powers on November 12.

Turkish ground forces consisted of about 800,000 men. The Turkish First, Second, and Fifth armies were deployed in the Straits region; the Third Army, in Turkish Armenia; the Fourth Army, in Syria and Palestine; and the Sixth Army, in Mesopotamia. Sultan Mehmed V was nominally the supreme commander in chief, but in fact the duties of this position were carried out by Enver Pasha, the minister of war. The chief of staff was a German general, W. Bronsart von Schellendorf. Russia moved its Army of the Caucasus to the Turkish border (commander in chief, General I. I. Vorontsov-Dashkov; deputy commander in chief, General A. Z. Myshlaevskii; 170,000 men and 350 guns). In the second half of October (early November) clashes took place in the Erzurum axis. On October 25 (November 7) the Russians seized fortified positions near Köprüköy (50 km north of Erzurum). However, under pressure from the superior forces of the enemy, the Russians withdrew to their initial positions by November 26 (December 9). The Turkish Third Army went over to the offensive on December 9 (22), but during the Sankamuş Operation of 1914–15 it was routed. On November 10 British expeditionary corps landed at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, forming the Mesopotamian Front. On November 22 the British took Basra, which had been abandoned by the Turks. The British captured al-Qurnah on December 9 and established a firm position in southern Mesopotamia.

Germany was unsuccessful in combat operations in Africa, the Far East, and the Pacific Ocean, losing most of its colonies during a single military campaign. In 1914, Japan seized the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean as well as Tsingtao, a German naval base in China. The Australians seized the German part of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand captured the Samoan Islands. Anglo-French forces occupied the German colonies in Africa: Togo in August 1914, the Cameroons in January 1916, Southwest Africa by July 1915, and East Africa by late 1917. (Until the end of the war, German forces continued to conduct partisan actions in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique and the British colony of Southern Rhodesia.)

Naval operations were of a limited character in 1914. On August 28 there was a battle between light forces of the British and German fleets in the North Sea near the island of Helgoland. On November 5 (18) a Russian squadron waged battle against the German ships Göben and Breslau near Cape Sarych in the Black Sea (50 km southeast of Sevastopol’). Damaged, the German ships retreated. The German command attempted to step up the actions of its fleet in British sea-lanes in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. In the battle of Coronel (Nov. 1, 1914), Admiral M. von Spee’s German squadron (five cruisers) defeated Rear Admiral C. Cradock’s British squadron, but on December 8, Admiral von Spee’s squadron was destroyed by Admiral F. Sturdee’s British squadron near the Falkland Islands. By the beginning of November, three additional German cruisers operating in the Atlantic and Pacific had been sunk.

The campaign of 1914 did not produce decisive results for either side. In France both sides went over to a static defense. Elements of trench warfare also emerged in the Eastern European theater of operations. Military operations demonstrated that the general staffs had been mistaken in their prewar predictions that the war would be short. Stockpiles of armaments and ammunition were used up during the very first operations. At the same time, it became clear that the war would be long and that emergency measures must be taken to mobilize industry and to develop the production of arms and ammunition.

Campaign of 1915. The Anglo-French command decided to go over to a strategic defensive in the Western European theater of operations, in order to gain time to stockpile matériel and train reserves. In the campaign of 1915 the main burden of armed struggle was shifted onto Russia. At the demand of the Allies the Russian command planned simultaneous offensives against Germany (in East Prussia) and Austria-Hungary (in the Carpathians). The prospect of protracted war did not please the German high command, which knew that Germany and its allies could not withstand a lengthy struggle with the Entente powers, who possessed superiority in manpower reserves and material resources.Therefore, the German plan for the campaign of 1915 was an offensive plan that counted on rapidly achieving victory. Lacking sufficient forces to conduct offensives simultaneously in the East and the West, the German command decided to concentrate its main efforts on the Eastern Front, with the objectives of crushing Russia and forcing it to leave the war. A defensive posture was planned for the Western Front.

Russia had 104 divisions against the 74 divisions of the Central Powers (36 German and 38 Austro-Hungarian divisions). Attempting to forestall the offensive prepared by the Russians, between January 25 (February 7) and February 13 (26) the German command undertook the Augustów Operation of 1915 in East Prussia. However, they did not attain their objective of surrounding the Tenth Army of the Russian Northwestern Front. In February and March Russian command used the forces of the Tenth, Twelfth, and First armies to carry out the Przasnysz Operation, during which the enemy was thrown back to the borders of East Prussia. On the southern wing of the Eastern Front, the command of the Russian Southwestern Front carried out the Carpathian Operation of 1915. Beseiged by Russian troops, the 120,000-strong Przemyśl garrison surrendered on March 9 (22). Heavy but indecisive fighting continued in the Carpathians until April 20.Experiencing a critical shortage of weapons and ammunition, the Russian forces brought a halt to their active operations in April 1915.

By the summer of 1915 the German command had formed the Eleventh Army with troops transferred from the Western Front to Galicia. The German Eleventh Army and the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army, under the overall command of the German general A. von Mackensen, went over to the offensive on April 19 (May 2). With an enormous superiority in forces and means (especially in artillery), the enemy broke through the defense of the Russian Third Army near Görlitz. The Görlitz breakthrough of 1915 led to a deep withdrawal of the forces of the Southwestern Front, which left Galicia in May and June.

At the same time, German troops were advancing in the Baltic region. On April 24 (May 7) they took Libau (Liepāja) and reached Shavli (Ŝiauliai) and Kovno (Kaunas). In July the German command attempted to break through the defense of the Russian First Army with an attack of the newly formed Twelfth Army in the Przasnysz region. The Twelfth Army, in cooperation with the Austro-Hungarian Fourth and German Eleventh armies, which were advancing from Galicia toward the northeast, was to surround the main groupings of the Russian forces, which were in Poland. The German plan was unsuccessful, but the Russian troops were forced to withdraw from Poland.

In the Vil’na Operation of August 1915 the Germans attempted to surround the Russian Tenth Army in the Vil’na (Vilnius) region. On August 27 (September 9) the enemy managed to break through the Russian defense and gain the rear of the Tenth Army. However, the Russian command stopped the enemy breakthrough. In October 1915 the front stabilized on the line of Riga, the Zapadnaia Dvina River, Dvinsk, Smorgon’, Baranovichi, Dubno, and the Strypa River. The German command had failed in its plan to force Russia to leave the war in 1915.

At the beginning of 1915 there were 75 French, 11 British, and six Belgian divisions opposing 82 German divisions in the Western European theater of operations. The number of British divisions increased to 31 in September and 37 in December. Planning no major operations, both sides conducted only local battles in this theater of military operations during the campaign of 1915. On April 22 at Ypres the German command became the first to use chemical weapons(chlorine gas) on the Western Front: 15,000 persons were poisoned. The German troops advanced 6 km. In May and June the Allies launched an offensive in Artois. Carried out with insufficient forces, it did not influence the course of combat operations on the Russian Front.

On July 7 the Interallied War Council was formed in Chantilly, to coordinate the strategic efforts of the Entente powers. To assist Russia, the council decided to undertake an offensive on the Western Front, with the objective of drawing considerable German forces away from the Eastern Front. However, offensive operations were carried out only from September 25 to October 6 in Champagne and Artois. At this time active military operations had in fact ceased on the Russian Front. Moreover, the Allied forces were unable to break through the strong enemy defense.

In the Middle Eastern theater of operations Russian forces conducted the most active military operations. In the Alashgerd Operation they cleared the enemy from the area around Lakes Van and Urmia. The increasing activity of German and Turkish agents in Iran forced the Russian command to send troops into the northern part of that country. General N. N. Baratov’s Caucasus Expeditionary Corps (about 8,000 men and 20 guns) was transferred from Tiflis to Baku and transported over the Caspian Sea to the Iranian port of Enzeli (Bandar-e Pahlavi), where it landed on October 17 (30). In November the corps occupied the city of Qazvin, and on December 3 (16) it took the city of Hamadan. Attempts by Germany and Turkey to strengthen their influence in Iran and draw it into the war against Russia were thwarted. The Caucasian Front (commander in chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich), which united all the Russian forces operating in the Middle Eastern theater, was formed in October 1915.

On the Mesopotamian Front, British troops under the command of General C. Townshend moved slowly toward Baghdad in September 1915, but on November 22 they were attacked and routed by the Turks, 35 km from the city, and on December 7 they were beseiged in Kut al-Amarah. The Russian command offered to organize coordinated actions between the British forces and the forces of the Caucasian Front, but the British command refused the offer, because it did not want Russian forces to enter the oil-rich Mosul region. At the end of 1915 the British corps in Mesopotamia was replenished and converted into an expeditionary army. On the Syrian Front the Turkish Fourth Army attempted to take the Suez Canal, by attacking Egypt from Palestine, but the Turks were driven back by two Anglo-Indian divisions. The Turks took up a defensive position in the al-Arish region.

In 1915 the Entente succeeded in drawing Italy into the war on its side. The vacillation of the Italian government was ended by the promises of the Entente powers to give greater satisfaction to Italy’s territorial claims than had been offered by Germany. On Apr. 26, 1915, the Treaty of London was signed. On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, but it did not declare war against Germany until Aug. 28, 1916. The Italian Army (commander in chief, King Victor Emmanuel III; chief of staff, General L. Cadorna) had 35 divisions, with a total of about 870,000 men and 1,700 guns. On May 24, Italian forces began military operations on two axes: against Trent and simultaneously toward the Isonzo River with the mission of reaching Trieste. The Italians failed on both axes. By June 1915 military operations in the Italian theater had already assumed a static character. Four attacks by Italian forces on the Isonzo River ended in collapse.

In the Balkan theater of operations the position of the Allies became more complicated in October 1915, when Bulgaria entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (the Bulgarian-German Treaty of 1915 and the Bulgarian-Turkish Treaty of 1915). On September 8 (21), Bulgaria proclaimed a mobilization of its army (12 divisions, about 500,000 men). In late September (early October), 14 German and Austro-Hungarian divisions and six Bulgarian divisions under the overall command of Field Marshal General von Mackensen were deployed against Serbia. The Serbs had 12 divisions. To assist Serbia, Great Britain and France, under an agreement with Greece, began on September 22 (October 5) to land an expeditionary corps at Salonika (Thessaloniki) and move it toward the border between Greece and Serbia. On September 24 (October 7) the Austro-German and Bulgarian forces launched a converging offensive against Serbia from the north, west, and east. For two months the Serbian Army courageously repulsed the onslaught of the superior forces of the enemy, but it was compelled to withdraw through the mountains to Albania. Approximately 140,000 men were transported by the Entente fleet from Durrës (Durazzo) to the Greek island of Corfu (Kerkira). The Anglo-French expeditionary corps retreated to the Salonika region, where the Salonika Front was formed in late 1915. The occupation of Serbia secured for the Central Powers the opportunity to establish direct rail communication with Turkey, making it possible to provide Turkey with military assistance.

During 1915 the German Navy continued its attempts to weaken the fleets of its enemies and to undermine the supply of Great Britain by sea. On January 24 a battle took place between British and German squadrons at Dogger Bank (North Sea). Neither side attained success. On Feb. 18, 1915, Germany declared that it was initiating “unrestricted submarine warfare.” The sinking of the passenger steamers Lusitania (May 7) and Arabic (August 19) evoked protests from the USA and other neutral countries, forcing the German government to limit its submarine warfare to actions against warships.

In February 1915 the Anglo-French command began to carry out a naval operation, the Gallipoli Expedition (the Dardanelles Operation of 1915), attempting to use naval forces to cross the Dardanelles, break through to Constantinople, and put Turkey out of the war. The breakthrough failed. In April 1915 a major landing party was set down on the Gallipoli Peninsula, but Turkish forces offered stiff resistance. In December 1915 and January 1916 the Allied command was forced to evacuate the landing forces, which were transferred to the Salonika Front. During the preparation for and execution of the Gallipoli Expedition, there was a bitter diplomatic struggle among the Allies. The expedition was undertaken under the pretext of assisting Russia. In March-April 1915, Great Britain and France had reached an agreement with Russia, under which Constantinople and the Straits would be handed over to Russia after the war, on the condition that the latter did not interfere in the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey. In reality, the Allies intended to capture the Straits and deny Russia access to them. Anglo-French talks on the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey concluded with the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. In August the German Navy undertook the Moonsund Operation of 1915, which was a failure. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued to operate in Turkish sea-lanes. On April 21 (May 2), during the Gallipoli Expedition, it shelled the fortifications on the Bosporus.

The campaign of 1915 did not fulfill the hopes of either of the hostile coalitions, but its outcome was more favorable for the Entente. The German command, again failing to solve the problem of crushing its enemies one by one, faced the necessity of continuing a long war on two fronts. The chief burden of the struggle in 1915 was borne by Russia, giving France and Great Britain time to mobilize their economies to meet war needs. Russia also began to mobilize its industry. In 1915 the Russian Front grew more important: in the summer, 107 Austro-German divisions, or 54 percent of all the forces of the Central Powers, were stationed there, as compared to 52 divisions (33 percent) at the beginning of the war.

The war placed a heavy burden on the toiling people. Gradually freeing themselves of the chauvinistic attitudes that had been widespread at the beginning of the war, the popular masses became more and more resolutely opposed to the imperialist slaughter. Antiwar demonstrations took place in 1915, and the strike movement in the warring countries began to grow. This process developed with particular speed and violence in Russia, where conditions were greatly exacerbated by military defeats, and a revolutionary situation developed in the autumn of 1915. At the fronts, there were cases of fraternization among soldiers from hostile armies. The propaganda of the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, and the left groups of European socialists and Social Democratic parties helped arouse the masses to revolutionary activity. In Germany the International Group was formed in the spring of 1915 under the leadership of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg. (From 1916 the group was known as the Spartacus League.) The Zimmerwald Conference (Sept. 5–8, 1915), an international socialist conference of great importance for the consolidation of revolutionary antiwar forces, adopted a manifesto that signified “a step toward an ideological and practical break with opportunism and social chauvinism” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 38).

Campaign of 1916. By the beginning of 1916 the Central Powers, having expended enormous efforts in the first two campaigns, had considerably depleted their resources but had been unable to force France or Russia to leave the war. The Entente raised the number of its divisions to 365, as against the 286 divisions of the German bloc.

The 1916 operations by the armies of the Central Powers were based on General von Falkenhayn’s plan, according to which the main efforts were again to be directed against France. The main attack was to be delivered in the Verdun region, which was of great operational importance. A breakthrough on this axis would threaten the entire northern wing of the Allied armies. The German plan called for active operations at the same time in the Italian theater, using the forces of the Austro-Hungarian armies. In the Eastern European theater of operations, the Germans decided to limit operations to a strategic defensive. The fundamentals of the Entente’s plan for the 1916 campaign were adopted at a conference in Chantilly (France) on Dec. 6–9, 1915. Offensives were planned for the Eastern European, Western European, and Italian theaters of operations. The Russian Army was to be the first to launch offensive operations, followed by the Anglo-French and Italian forces. The Allies’ strategic plan was the first attempt to coordinate troop operations on different fronts.

The Entente plan did not provide for going over to a general offensive until the summer of 1916. This ensured that the German command would keep the strategic initiative, a factor which it decided to use to its advantage. The Germans had 105 divisions on a front 680 km long in the Western European theater of operations. They were opposed by 139 Allied divisions (95 French, 38 British, and six Belgian divisions). On February 21 the German command began the Verdun Operation of 1916, without an overall superiority in forces. Bitter combat, during which both sides suffered heavy losses, continued until December. The Germans expended enormous efforts but were unable to break through the defense.

In the Italian theater of operations the command of the Italian Army launched its fifth unsuccessful offensive on the Isonzo River in March 1916. On May 15, Austro-Hungarian forces (18 divisions and 2,000 guns) delivered a counter blow in the Trentino region. The Italian First Army (16 divisions and 623 guns), unable to hold back the enemy onslaught, began to withdraw to the south. Italy requested emergency assistance from its allies.

Operations in the Eastern European theater, where 128 Russian divisions were deployed against 87 Austro-German divisions along a front 1,200 km long, were particularly important in the campaign of 1916. The Naroch (Narocz) Operation,which was carried out on March 5–17 (18–30), forced the Germans temporarily to weaken their attacks on Verdun. The Russian offensive on the Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General A. A. Brusilov), which began on May 22 (June 4), was of great importance. The Russians broke through the defense of the Austro-German forces to a depth of 80–120 km. The enemy suffered heavy losses (more than 1 million killed and wounded and more than 400,000 taken prisoner). The command of the Central Powers were forced to move 11 German divisions from France and six Austro-Hungarian divisions from Italy to the Russian Front.

The Russian offensive saved the Italian Army from destruction, eased the situation of the French at Verdun, and hastened Rumania’s entry into the war on the side of the Entente. Rumania declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 14(27), on Germany on August 15 (28), on Turkey on August 17 (30), and on Bulgaria on August 19 (September 1). The Rumanian armed forces consisted of four armies (23 infantry and two cavalry divisions; 250,000 men). The Russian 47th Army Corps was moved across the Danube to the Dobruja region to assist the Rumanian forces. With Russian support, Rumanian forces launched an offensive in Transylvania on August 20 (September 2) and later in the Dobruja region, but they did not attain success. The Austro-German command concentrated General von Falkenhayn’s army group in Transylvania (the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army, with a total of 26 infantry and seven cavalry divisions) and Field Marshal General von Mackensen’s German Danube Army in Bulgaria (nine infantry and two cavalry divisions). On September 13 (26) both groups, under the overall command of General von Falkenhayn, went over to the offensive at the same time. The Rumanian Army was routed.

On November 22 (December 6), German forces entered Bucharest, which the Rumanians abandoned without a fight. The Russian command moved in 35 infantry and 13 cavalry divisions to assist Rumania. Russia had to form a new Rumanian front. By the end of 1916, its forces had stopped the advance of the Austro-German armies on the line between Focşani and the mouth of the Danube. The formation of the Rumanian Front increased the total length of the front line by 500 km and diverted about a fourth of Russia’s armed forces, thereby worsening the strategic position of the Russian Army.

After lengthy preparation, Anglo-French forces opened a major offensive on the Somme River on July 1, but it developed very slowly. Tanks were used for the first time on September 15 by the British. The Allies continued the offensive until mid-November, but despite enormous losses, they advanced only 5–15 km and failed to break through the German static front.

In the Middle Eastern theater of operations the forces of the Russian Caucasian Front successfully carried out the Erzurum Operation of 1916, the Trabzon Operation of 1916, and the Erzincan and Oğnut operations, taking the cities ofErzurum, Trabzon, and Erzincan. General N. N. Baratov’s I Caucasus Cavalry Corps launched an offensive on the Mosul and Baghdad axes, with the objective of assisting the British, who were beseiged at Kut al-Amarah. In February the corps took Kermanshah, and in May it reached the Turkish-Iranian border. With the surrender of the garrison at Kut al-Amarah on Apr. 28, 1916, the Russian corps brought a halt to its advance and took up a defensive position east of Kermanshah.

In naval operations, the British fleet continued its long-range blockade of Germany. German submarines were active on the sea-lanes. The system of minefields was improved. The battle of Jutland (1916) was the war’s only major naval battle between the main forces of the British Navy (Admiral J. Jellicoe) and the German Navy (Admiral R. Scheer). The battle involved 250 surface ships, including 58 capital ships (battleships and battle cruisers). As a result of its superiority in forces, the British fleet was victorious, even though it suffered greater losses than the German fleet. The defeat shattered the German command’s belief that it was possible to break through the British blockade. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued its actions on enemy sea-lanes, blockading the Bosporus from August 1916.

The campaign of 1916 did not result in the achievement of the objectives set at the beginning by either coalition, but the superiority of the Entente over the Central Powers became evident. The strategic initiative passed fully to the Entente, and Germany was forced to go over to the defensive on all fronts.

The bloody battles of 1916, which involved enormous human sacrifices and great expenditures of matériel, were depleting the resources of the belligerent powers. The situation of the working people continued to worsen, but the revolutionary movement also continued to grow stronger in 1916. The Kienthal Conference of internationalists (Apr. 24–30, 1916) played an important role in increasing solidarity among revolutionary forces. The revolutionary movement developed with particular speed and turbulence in Russia, where the war had finally revealed to the popular masses the complete decadence of tsarism. A powerful wave of strikes swept over the country, led by the Bolsheviks under the slogans of struggle against the war and the autocracy. The Middle Asian Uprising, a national liberation movement, took place from July to October 1916. In the autumn a revolutionary situation took shape in Russia. The inability of tsarism to win the war aroused discontent among the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, who began to prepare a palace revolution. The revolutionary movement grew stronger in other countries. The Irish Rebellion, or Easter Rising (Apr. 24–30, 1916), was harshly suppressed by British troops. On May 1, K. Liebknecht led a massive antiwar demonstration in Berlin. The growing revolutionary crisis forced the imperialists to direct their efforts toward quickly ending the war. In 1916, Germany and tsarist Russia attempted to open separate peace negotiations.

Campaign of 1917. As the campaign of 1917 was prepared and carried out, the revolutionary movement grew considerably stronger in every country. Protest against the war with its enormous losses, against the sharp decline in the standard of living, and against the increasing exploitation of the working people became stronger among the popular masses at the front and in the rear. The revolutionary events in Russia had a tremendous effect on the subsequent course of the war.

By the beginning of the campaign of 1917, the Entente had 425 divisions (21 million men), and the Central Powers, 331 divisions (10 million men). In April 1917 the USA entered the war on the side of the Entente. The fundamental principles of the plan for the campaign of 1917 were adopted by the Allies at the third conference in Chantilly on Nov. 15–16, 1916, and were made more specific in February 1917 at a conference in Petrograd. The plan provided for limited operations on all fronts early in the year, to hold the strategic initiative. In the summer the Allies were to go over to a general offensive in the Western European and Eastern European theaters of operations, with the objective of finally crushing Germany and Austria-Hungary. The German command rejected offensive operations on land and decided to focus its attention on waging “unrestricted submarine warfare,” believing that it could disrupt the British economy in six months and force Great Britain out of the war. On Feb. 1, 1917, Germany declared “unrestricted submarine warfare” on Great Britain for the second time. Between February and April 1917, German submarines destroyed more than 1,000 merchant ships of the Allied and neutral countries (a total of 1,752,000 tons). By mid-1917, Great Britain, which had lost merchant ships amounting to approximately 3 million tons, found itself in a difficult situation. It could only make up for 15 percent of the losses, and this was not enough to sustain the export and import traffic essential to the country. By the end of 1917, however, after the organization of a reinforced defense of the sea-lanes and the development of various means of antisubmarine defense, the Entente managed to reduce its merchant ship losses. “Unrestricted submarine warfare” did not fulfill the hopes of the German command. Meanwhile, the continuing British blockade was starving Germany.

In executing the general plan for the campaign, the Russian command carried out the Mitau Operation on Dec. 23–29, 1916 (Jan. 5–11, 1917), with the objective of diverting part of the enemy forces from the Western European theater of operations. On February 27 (March 12) a bourgeois democratic revolution took place in Russia (the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution of 1917). Under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the proletariat, demanding peace, bread, and freedom, led the majority of the army, which was made up of workers and peasants, in the overthrow of the autocracy. However, the bourgeois Provisional Government came to power. Expressing the interests of Russian imperialism, it continued the war. Deceiving the masses of soldiers with false promises of peace, it opened an offensive operation with the troops of the Southwestern Front. The operation ended in failure (the June Operation of 1917).

By the summer of 1917 the combat capability of the Rumanian Army had been restored with Russian assistance, and in the battle of Mărăşeşti (July-August) Russian and Rumanian forces repulsed the German forces, which were attempting to break through to the Ukraine. On August 19–24 (September 1–6), during the Riga defensive operation, Russian troops surrendered Riga. The revolutionary sailors of the Baltic Fleet heroically defended the Moonsund Archipelago in the Moonsund Operation of Sept. 29 (Oct. 12)-Oct. 6 (19), 1917. These were the last operations on the Russian Front.

The Great October Socialist Revolution took place on Oct. 25 (Nov. 7), 1917. The proletariat, in alliance with the poorest peasants and under the leadership of the Communist Party, overthrew the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords and opened the era of socialism. Carrying out the will of the people, the Soviet government addressed a proposal to all the warring powers, calling for the conclusion of a just democratic peace without annexations and reparations (the decree on peace). When the Entente powers and the USA refused to accept the proposal, the Soviet government was forced to conclude an armistice with the German coalition on December 2(15) and begin peace negotiations without the participation of Russia’s former allies. On November 26 (December 9), Rumania concluded the Focşani armistice with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

In the Italian theater of operations there were 57 Italian divisions opposing 27 Austro-Hungarian divisions in April 1917. Despite the numerical superiority of the Italian forces, the Italian command was unable to attain success. Three more offensives against the Isonzo River failed. On October 24, Austro-Hungarian troops went over to the offensive in the Caporetto region, broke through the Italians’ defense, and inflicted a major defeat on them. Without the assistance of 11 British and French divisions transferred to the Italian theater of operations, it would not have been possible to stop the advance of the Austro-Hungarian forces at the Piave River in late November. In the Middle Eastern theater of operations British troops advanced successfully in Mesopotamia and Syria. They took Baghdad on March 11 and Be’er Sheva’ (Beersheba), Gaza, Jaffa, and Jerusalem in late 1917.

The Entente plan of operations in France, which was developed by General Nivelle, called for delivering the main attack on the Aisne River between Reims and Soissons, in order to break through the enemy defense and surround the German forces in the Noyon salient. Learning of the French plan, by March 17 the German command withdrew its forces 30 km to a previously prepared line known as the Siegfried Line. Subsequently, the French command decided to begin the offensive on a broad front, committing to action major forces and means: six French and three British armies (90 infantry and ten cavalry divisions), more than 11,000 guns and mortars, 200 tanks, and about 1,000 airplanes.

The Allied offensive began on April 9 in the Arras region, on April 12 near St. Quentin, and on April 16 in the Reims region and continued until April 20–28 and May 5 on some axes. The April offensive (the “Nivelle slaughter”) ended incomplete failure. Although about 200,000 men had been lost, the Allied forces had not been able to break through the front. Mutinies broke out in the French Army, but they were cruelly suppressed. A Russian brigade that had been in France since 1916 took part in the offensive on the Aisne River. In the second half of 1917, Anglo-French forces carried out a number of local operations: Messines (June 7-August 30), Ypres (July 31-November 6), Verdun (August 20–27),and Malmaison (October 23–26). At Cambrai (November 20-December 6) massed tanks were used for the first time.

The campaign of 1917 did not produce the results anticipated by either side. The revolution in Russia and the lack of coordinated action by the Allies thwarted the Entente’s strategic plan, which had been intended to crush the Austro-Hungarian bloc. Germany succeeded in repulsing the enemy attacks, but its hope of attaining victory by means of “unrestricted submarine warfare” proved vain, and the troops of the coalition of Central Powers were forced to go over to the defensive.

Campaign of 1918. By early 1918 the military and political situation had changed fundamentally. After the October Revolution Soviet Russia quit the war. Under the influence of the Russian Revolution, a revolutionary crisis was ripening in the other warring powers. The Entente countries (excluding Russia) had 274 divisions at the beginning of 1918—that is, forces approximately equal to those of the German bloc, which had 275 divisions (not counting 86 divisions in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region and nine divisions in the Caucasus). The military and economic situation of the Entente was stronger than that of the German bloc. However, the Allied command believed that even more powerful human and material resources would have to be prepared, with the assistance of the USA, in order to finally crush Germany.

Strategic defensives were planned for all theaters of military operations in the campaign of 1918. The decisive offensive against Germany was postponed until 1919. Their resources running out, the Central Powers were eager to end the war as quickly as possible. Having concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Soviet Russia on Mar. 3, 1918, the German command decided in March to go over to the offensive on the Western Front to crush the Entente armies. At the same time, German and Austro-Hungarian forces, in violation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, began occupying the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region. Rumania was drawn into the anti-Soviet intervention after May 7, when it signed the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1918, the terms of which were dictated by the Central Powers.

On March 21 the German command began a major offensive operation on the Western Front (the March Offensive in Picardy). Their intention was to cut off the British forces from the French forces by means of an attack on Amiens, then crush them and reach the sea. The Germans made sure that they would have superiority in forces and means (62 divisions, 6,824 guns, and about 1,000 airplanes against 32 divisions, about 3,000 guns, and about 500 airplanes for the British). The German forces broke through the Allied defense to a depth of 60 km. The Allied command eliminated the breakthrough by bringing reserves into the battle. The German forces suffered heavy losses (about 230,000 men) but did not achieve their assigned objective. Going over to the offensive again on April 9 in Flanders on the Lys River, the German forces advanced 18 km, but by April 14 the Allies stopped them.

On May 27 the German armies delivered an attack north of Reims (the battle of the Chemin des Dames). They managed to cross the Aisne River and penetrate the Allied defense to a depth of about 60 km, reaching the Marne in the Château-Thierry region by May 30. Having arrived within 70 km of Paris, the German forces were unable to overcome French resistance, and on June 4 they went over to the defensive. The attempt of German troops from June 9 to 13 to advance between Montdidier and Noyon was equally unsuccessful.

On July 15 the German command made a final attempt to defeat the Allied armies by opening a major offensive on the Marne. The battle of the Marne of 1918 (the second battle of the Marne) did not fulfill the Germans’ hopes. After crossing the Marne, they were unable to advance more than 6 km. On July 18, Allied forces delivered a counterattack; by August 4 they had driven the enemy back to the Aisne and the Vesle. In four months of offensive operations the German command had completely exhausted its reserves but had been unable to crush the Entente armies.

The Allies took firm control of the strategic initiative. On August 8–13 the Anglo-French armies inflicted a major defeat on the German forces in the Amiens Operation of 1918, making them withdraw to the line from which their March offensive had begun. Ludendorff referred to August 8 as “the black day of the German Army.” On September 12–15 the American First Army, commanded by General J. Pershing, won a victory over German forces at St. Mihiel (the St. Mihiel Operation). On September 26, Allied forces (202 divisions against 187 weakened German divisions) began a general offensive along the entire 420-km front from Verdun to the sea and broke through the German defense.

In the other theaters of military operations the campaign of 1918 ended with the defeat of Germany’s allies. The Entente had 56 divisions, including 50 Italian divisions, in the Italian theater of operations, as well as more than 7,040 guns and more than 670 airplanes. Austria-Hungary had 60 divisions, 7,500 guns, and 580 airplanes. On June 15 the Austro-Hungarian forces, going over to the offensive south of Trent, broke through the enemy defense and advanced 3–4 km, but on June 20–26 they were thrown back to the starting line by counterattack by Allied forces. On October 24 the Italian Army went over to the offensive against the Piave River, but it made only an insignificant advance. On October 28 units of the Austro-Hungarian Fifth and Sixth armies, refusing to fight, began to abandon their positions. They were soon joined by troops of other armies, and a disorderly retreat of all the Austro-Hungarian forces began on November 2. On November 3,Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with the Entente at Villa Giusti (near Padua).

In the Balkan theater of operations, the Allied forces consisted of 29 infantry divisions (eight French, four British, six Serbian, one Italian, and ten Greek divisions and one French cavalry group, a total of about 670,000 men; and 2,070 guns).Facing them along a 350-km front from the Aegean to the Adriatic were the forces of the Central Powers—the German Eleventh Army; the Bulgarian First, Second, and Fourth armies; an Austro-Hungarian corps (a total of about 400,000 men); and 1,138 guns. On September 15 the Allies began an offensive; by September 29 they had advanced to a depth of 150 km along a front of 250 km. Surrounded, the German Eleventh Army surrendered on September 30. The Bulgarian armies were smashed. On September 29, Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Entente in Salonika.

The British army of General E. H. Allenby and the Arab army commanded by Emir Faisal and the British intelligence officer Colonel T. E. Lawrence (a total of 105,000 men and 546 guns) were operating on the Syrian Front, where Turkey had three armies—the Fourth, the Seventh, and the Eighth (a total of 34,000 men and about 330 guns). The Allied offensive began on September 19. Breaking through the enemy defense and pushing forward cavalry units to the enemy rear, Allied troops forced the Turkish Eighth and Seventh armies to surrender; the Turkish Fourth Army retreated. Between September 28 and October 27 the Allies captured Akko (Acre), Damascus, Tripoli, and Aleppo. A French landing party went ashore at Beirut on October 7.

On the Mesopotamian Front the British expeditionary army of General W. Marshall (five divisions) went on the offensive against the Turkish Sixth Army (four divisions). The British captured Kirkuk on October 24 and Mosul on October 31.The Entente powers and Turkey signed the Moudhros Armistice on Oct. 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon in Moudhros Bay (the island of Limnos).

In early October, Germany’s position became hopeless. On October 5 the German government asked the US government for an armistice. The Allies demanded the withdrawal of German forces from all occupied territory in the west. The military defeats and economic exhaustion of Germany had accelerated the development of a revolutionary crisis. The victory and progress of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia strongly influenced the growth of the revolutionary movement of the German people. On Oct. 30, 1918, an uprising broke out among the sailors in Wilhelmshaven. The Kiel Mutiny of sailors in the German fleet took place on Nov. 3, 1918; on November 6 the uprising spread to Hamburg, Lübeck, and other cities. On November 9 the revolutionary German workers and soldiers overthrew the monarchy. Fearing further development of the revolution in Germany, the Entente hurried to conclude the Armistice of Compiègne with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918. Germany, admitting that it had been defeated, obligated itself to remove its forces immediately from all occupied territories and turn over to the Allies a large quantity of armaments and military equipment.

Results of the war. World War I ended in the defeat of Germany and its allies. After the conclusion of the Armistice of Compiègne the victorious powers began developing plans for a postwar “settlement.” Treaties with the defeated countries were prepared at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20. A number of separate treaties were signed: the Peace Treaty of Versailles with Germany (June 28, 1919), the Treaty of St.-Germain with Austria (Sept. 10, 1919), the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria (Nov. 27, 1919), the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary (June 4, 1920), and the Treaty of Sèvres with Turkey (Aug. 10, 1920). The Paris Peace Conference also adopted a resolution regarding the establishment of the League of Nations and approved its Covenant, which became part of the peace treaties. Germany and its former allies were deprived of considerable territories and compelled to pay heavy reparations and greatly reduce their armed forces.

The postwar peace “settlement” in the interests of the victorious imperialist powers was completed by the Washington Conference on Naval Limitations (1921–22). The treaties with Germany and its former allies and the agreements signed at the Washington Conference constituted the Versailles-Washington system of peace. The result of compromises and deals, it failed to eliminate the contradictions among the imperialist powers and in fact considerably exacerbated them. Lenin wrote: “Today, after this ‘peaceful’ period, we see a monstrous intensification of oppression, the reversion to a colonial and military oppression that is far worse than before” (ibid., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 217). The imperialist powers began to struggle for a repartition of the world, preparing for another world war.

In its scope and consequences World War I was unprecedented in the history of the human race. It lasted four years, three months, and ten days (from Aug. 1, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918), engulfing 38 countries with a combined population of more than 1.5 billion. The Entente countries mobilized about 45 million men, and the coalition of the Central Powers, 25 million —a total of 70 million men. The most able-bodied men on both sides were removed from material production and sent to exterminate each other, fighting for the interests of the imperialists. By the end of the war, the ground forces exceeded their peacetime counterparts by a factor of 8.5 in Russia, five in France, nine in Germany, and eight in Austria-Hungary. As much as 50 and even 59.4 percent (in France) of the able-bodied male population was mobilized. The Central Powers mobilized almost twice the percentage of the total population as the Entente (19.1 percent, as compared to 10.3 percent). About 16 million men—more than one-third of all those mobilized by the Entente and its allies— were mobilized for the Russian armed forces. In June 1917, 288 (55.3 percent) of the Entente’s 521 divisions were Russian. In Germany, 13.25 million men were mobilized, or more than half of all the soldiers mobilized by the Central Powers. In June 1918, 236 (63.4 percent) of the Central Powers’ 361 divisions were German. The large size of the armies resulted in the formation of vast fronts up to 3,000–4,000 km long.

WWIGraph5

The war demanded the mobilization of all material resources, demonstrating the decisive role of the economy in an armed struggle. World War I was characterized by the massive use of many types of matériel. “It is the first time in history that the most powerful achievements of technology have been applied on such a scale, so destructively and with such energy, for the annihilation of millions of human lives” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 36, p. 396). Industry in the warring countries supplied the fronts with millions of rifles, more than 1 million light and heavy machine guns, more than 150,000 artillery pieces, 47.7 billion cartridges, more than 1 billion shells, 9,200 tanks, and about 182,000 airplanes (see Table 4). During the war the number of heavy artillery pieces increased by a factor of eight, the number of machine guns by a factor of 20, and the number of airplanes by a factor of 24. The war created a demand for large quantities of various materials, such as lumber and cement. About 4 million tons of barbed wire were used. Armies of millions of men demanded an uninterrupted supply of food, clothing, and forage. For example, from 1914 to 1917 the Russian Army consumed (in round figures) 9.64 million tons of flour, 1.4 million tons of cereal, 8.74 million tons of meat, 510,000 tons of fats, 11.27 million tons of forage oats and barley, and 19.6 million tons of hay, with a total value of 2,473,700,000 rubles (at 1913 prices). The front was supplied with 5 million sheepskin coats and pea jackets, 38.4 million sweaters and padded vests, more than 75 million pairs of underwear, 86.1 million pairs of high boots and shoes, 6.6 million pairs of felt boots, and other clothing.

Military enterprises alone could not produce such enormous quantities of armaments and other supplies. Industry was mobilized by means of a large-scale conversion of consumer-goods plants and factories to the production of war goods. In Russia in 1917, 76 percent of the workers were engaged in meeting war needs; in France, 57 percent; in Great Britain, 46 percent; in Italy, 64 percent; in the USA, 31.6 percent; and in Germany, 58 percent. In most of the warring countries, however, industry was unable to supply the needs of the armies for armaments and equipment. Russia, for example, was forced to order armaments, ammunition, clothing, industrial equipment, steam locomotives, coal, and certain other types of strategic raw materials from the USA, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Japan, and other countries. During the war, however, these countries provided the Russian Army with only a small proportion of its total requirements for armaments and ammunition: 30 percent of the rifles, less than 1 percent of the rifle cartridges, 23 percent of the guns of different calibers, and 20 percent of the shells for these guns.

In all the major countries special state bodies were established to manage the war economies: in Germany the Department of War Raw Materials, in Great Britain the Ministry of Munitions, and in Russia the Special Conferences (for state defense, fuel, shipping, and food). These state bodies planned war production; distributed orders, equipment, and raw and processed materials; rationed food and consumer goods; and exercised control over foreign trade. The capitalists formed their own representative organizations to assist the state bodies: in Germany the Central War Industries Council and war industries committees for each sector, in Great Britain the supervisory committees, and in Russia the war industries committees and the Zemstvo and Municipal unions. As a result, an interlocking relationship developed between the state administrative apparatus and the monopolies. “The imperialist war has immensely accelerated and intensified the process of transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 33, p. 3). Although the state bodies managing the war economy had strong assistance from the representative organizations of the capitalists, the very nature of the capitalist economy prevented them from achieving complete success.

The war made intensive demands on all types of transportation. Up to half of all railroad rolling stock was loaded with military shipments. Most motor vehicles were used for military needs. A large number of the merchant vessels of the warring and neutral countries were engaged in shipping cargoes for war industries and armies. During the war 6,700 vessels (excluding sailing ships) were sunk (total displacement, about 15 million tons, or 28 percent of the prewar world tonnage).

The increase in military production, which was achieved primarily at the expense of nonmilitary sectors, placed excessive strains on the national economies, resulting in the disruption of the proportion between different sectors of production and, ultimately, in economic disorder. In Russia, for example, two-thirds of all industrial output went for war needs and only one-third for consumer needs, giving rise to a scarcity of goods, as well as to high prices and speculation. As early as 1915 there were shortages of many types of industrial raw materials and fuel, and by 1916 there was a severe raw materials and fuel crisis in Russia. As a result of the war, the production of many types of industrial output declined in other countries. There was a significant decline in the smelting of pig iron, steel, and nonferrous metals; the extraction of coal and petroleum; and output from all branches of light industry. The war damaged society’s productive forces and undermined the economic life of the people of the world.

In agriculture the effects of the war were especially grave. Mobilization deprived the countryside of its most productive workers and draft animals. Sown areas were cut back, yields dropped, and the number of livestock decreased and their productivity declined. Severe shortages of food developed in the cities of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, which later experienced famine. The shortages spread to the army, resulting in cuts in food rations.

World War I demanded colossal financial expenditures, many times greater than the expenditures in all previous wars. There is no scientifically substantiated estimate of the total cost of World War I, but the one most commonly cited in the literature was calculated by the American economist E. Bogart, who set the total cost of the war at $359.9 billion in gold (699.4 billion rubles), including $208.3 billion (405 billion rubles) of direct (budgeted) expenditures and $151.6 billion (294.4 billion rubles) of indirect expenditures. Direct war expenditures included the cost of maintaining the army (40 percent) and the cost of the material and technological means for waging war (60 percent). The national income provided the economic base for covering war expenditures. Additional sources of financing the war were increases in existing (direct and indirect) taxes and the institution of new taxes, the sale of domestic and foreign bonds, and the issuing of paper money. The full weight of the financial burden of the war fell on the toiling classes of the population.

World War I was an important stage in the history of the art of war and in the building of armed forces. There were major changes in the organization and relationships of the various combat arms. The great length of the fronts and the deployment on them of vast armies of millions of soldiers led to the creation of new organizational units: fronts and army groups. The firepower of the infantry increased, but its proportionate role decreased somewhat as the result of the development of other combat arms: engineers, signal troops, and especially, the artillery. The number of artillery pieces rose sharply, technology improved, and new types of artillery were developed (antiaircraft, infantry support, and antitank artillery). The range of fire, destructive force of fire, and mobility of the artillery increased. The density of artillery reached 100 or more guns per kilometer of front. Infantry attacks were accompanied by rolling barrages.

Tanks, a powerful striking and mobile force, were used for the first time. Tank forces developed rapidly. By the war’s end there were 8,000 tanks in the Entente armies. In aviation, which also developed rapidly, several different branches emerged: fighter, reconnaissance, bombardment, and ground attack aviation. By the end of the war the belligerent powers had more than 10,000 combat aircraft. Antiaircraft defense developed in the air war. Chemical warfare troops appeared. The significance of the cavalry among the combat arms declined, and by the war’s end the number of cavalry troops had dropped sharply.

The war revealed the growing dependence of the art of war on economics and politics. The scale of operations, the extent of the front of attack, and the depth and rate of advance increased. With the establishment of continuous fronts,combat operations became static. The frontal blow, the success of which determined the outcome of an operation, became very important. During World War I the problem of the tactical breakthrough of a front was solved, but the problem of developing a breakthrough into an operational success remained unsolved. New means of fighting complicated the tactics of the combat arms. At the beginning of the war the infantry conducted offensives in skirmish lines and later, in waves of lines and combat teams (squads). Combined arms combat was based on cooperation between old and new combat arms—the infantry, the artillery, tanks, and aviation. Control of troops became more complex. The role of logistics and supplies increased significantly. Rail and motor-vehicle transport became very important.

The types and classes of naval ships were refined, and there was an increase in the proportion of light forces (cruisers, destroyers, patrol vessels and patrol boats, and submarines). Shipboard artillery, mines, torpedoes, and naval aviation were used extensively. The chief forms of military operations at sea were the blockade; cruiser, submarine, and mine warfare; landings and raids; and engagements and battles between line forces and light forces. The experience of World War I greatly influenced the development of military thinking and the organization and combat training of all combat arms (forces) until World War II (1939–45).

The war brought unprecedented deprivation and human suffering and widespread hunger and devastation. It brought mankind “to the brink of a precipice, to the brink of the destruction of civilization, of brutalization” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 31, p.182). Valuables worth 58 billion rubles were destroyed during the war. Entire regions, especially in northern France, were turned into wastelands.

Casualties amounted to 9.5 million killed and dead of wounds and 20 million wounded, of whom 3.5 million were permanently crippled. The heaviest losses (66.6 percent of the total) were suffered by Germany, Russia, France, and Austria-Hungary. The USA sustained only 1.2 percent of the total losses. Many civilians were killed by the various means of combat. (There are no overall figures for combat-related civilian casualties.) Hunger and other privations caused by the war led to a rise in the mortality rate and a drop in the birthrate. The population loss from these factors was more than 20 million in the 12 belligerent states alone, including 5 million in Russia, 4.4 million in Austria-Hungary, and 4.2 million in Germany. Unemployment, inflation, tax increases, and rising prices worsened the poverty and extreme deprivation of the large majority of the population of the capitalist countries.

Only the capitalists gained any advantages from the war. By the beginning of 1918, the war profits of the German monopolies totaled at least 10 billion gold marks. The capital of the German finance magnate Stinnes increased by a factor of ten, and the net profits of the “cannon king” Krupp, by a factor of almost six. Monopolies in France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan made large profits, but the American monopolies made the most on the war—between 1914 and 1918, $3 billion in profits. “The American multimillionaires profited more than all the rest. They have converted all, even the richest, countries into their tributaries. And every dollar is stained with blood—from that ocean of blood that has been shed by the 10 million killed and 20 million maimed” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 37, p. 50). The profits of the monopolies continued to grow after the war.

The ruling classes placed the entire burden of the economic consequences of the war on the toiling people. World War I led to an aggravation of the class struggle and accelerated the ripening of the objective prerequisites for the Great October Socialist Revolution, which opened a new epoch in world history—the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. The example of Russia’s toiling people, who threw off the oppression of the capitalists and landlords, showed other peoples the way to liberation. A wave of revolutionary actions swept over many countries, shaking the foundations of the world capitalist system. The national liberation movement became active in the colonial and dependent countries. “World War I and the October Revolution marked the beginning of the general crisis of capitalism” (Programma KPSS, 1974, p. 25). Politically, this was the chief result of the war.

SOURCES

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Istoriia KPSS, vols. 2–3 (book 1). Moscow, 1966–67.
Strategicheskii ocherk voiny 1914–1918, vols. 1–7. Moscow, 1920–23.
Strokov, A. A. Istoriia voennogo iskusstvo, vol. 3. Moscow, 1967.
Talenskii, N. A. Pervaia mirovaia voina (1914–1918): (Boevye deistviia na sushe i na more). Moscow, 1944.
Verzhkhovskii, D., and V. Liakhov. Pervaia mirovaia voina, 1914–1918. Moscow, 1964.
Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg., 3rd ed., vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1938–39.
Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Podgotovka Rossii k imperialisticheskoi voine: Ocherki voennoi podgotovki i pervonachal’nykh planov. Moscow, 1926.
Bovykin, V. I. Iz istorii vozniknoveniia pervoi mirovoi voiny: Otnosheniia Rossii i Frantsii ν 1912–1914. Moscow, 1961.
Ignat’ev, A. V. Russko-angliiskie otnosheniia nakanune pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1962.
Ignat’ev, A. V. Russko-angliiskie otnosheniia nakanune Okliabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1966.
Asta’ev, I. I. Russko-germanskie diplomaticheskie otnosheniia 1905–1911. Moscow, 1972.
Ganelin, R. Sh. Rossiia i SShA, 1914–1917. Leningrad, 1969.
Poletika, N. P. Vozniknovenie pervoi mirovoi voiny (iiul’skii krizis 1914). Moscow, 1964.
Fay, S. Proiskhozhdenie mirovoi voiny, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1934. (Translated from English.)
Falkenhayn, E. von. Verkhovnoe komandovanie 1914–1916 gg. ν ego vazhneishikh resheniiakh. Moscow, 1923. (Translated from German.)
Kolenkovskii, A. K. Manevrennyi period pervoi mirovoi imperialisticheskoi voiny 1914 g. Moscow, 1940.
Arutiunian, A. O. Kavkazskii front 1914–1917 gg. Yerevan, 1971.
Korsun, N. G. Balkanskii front mirovoi voiny 1914–1918 gg. Moscow, 1939.
Korsun, N. G. Pervaia mirovaia voina na Kavkazskom fronte. Moscow, 1946.
Bazarevskii, A. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg.: Kampaniia 1918 g. vo Frantsii i Bel’gii, vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1927.
Novitskii, V. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg.: Kampaniia 1914 g. ν Bel’gii i Frantsii, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1938.
Villari, L. Voina na ital’ianskom fronte 1915–1918 gg. Moscow, 1936. (Translated from English.)
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Corbett, J. S., and H. Newbolt. Operatsii angliiskogo flota ν mirovuiu voinu, 3rd ed., vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1941. (Translated from English.)
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I. I. ROSTUNOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): Statement of the 15th Meeting of the Marxist-Leninist Parties of Latin America

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Together with the workers and peoples of the world, we are outraged and condemn the genocide of the Israeli government and army against the Palestinian People!

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of Quito, which proclaimed the birth of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, we the Marxist-Leninist communist parties of Latin America, together with the fraternal participation of the Marxist- Leninist comrades of Turkey and Spain, met to review the individual and collective work that we carried out in the last year; it is an occasion in which we also analyzed the situation in our respective countries and that of Latin America and the world in general.

During the presentations and discussions, we established that our parties have been active to different degrees and with weaknesses in development in different aspects; they have been making strenuous efforts to link up with the working class and the popular sectors, in order to promote their political positions, advance their struggles and win their consciousness; and, with a view to increasing their ranks and advancing towards becoming political forces that affect the national political life, always with the perspective of the seizure of political power.

We live in the midst of a complex situation that requires a deeper and continuous attention on our part. Although Latin America still remains an area that is the fundamental domain of United States imperialism, other imperialist powers, the European Union among them, and now China and Russia in an unusual way, through the BRICS, are embarking on the search for an important share of the natural resources and market in the area. This makes Latin America into an important area of inter-imperialist contention, which has and in the future will have some political implications that we will have to know how to deal with very intelligently.

Another element that adds complexity to the situation in Latin America is the fact that, besides the puppet governments that continue to be tied to the worn-out neo-liberal prescriptions, in several countries the politics of the system are expressed through proposals of governments that define themselves as progressive and even leftist, while still keeping a good part of our peoples under their influence.

We note that in most countries there is a growing tendency to curtail democratic rights and civil liberties; to criminalize protests and carry out judicial prosecution of revolutionary militants and trade union and popular activists in general with charges up to terrorism and rebellion against the state. This is only because they might be organizing activities for demands in favour of the popular masses or of opposition to government policies. Facts that show this trend in our continent can be seen clearly in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador and in most countries of Central America.

This negative trend places before us the urgent necessity to raise the struggle in defence of democratic rights and the achievement of human rights, at the same time as we strengthen international solidarity among our parties and peoples.

The overall situation demands of our parties a theoretical and propaganda work that is much broader than we have so far developed, which has been limited.

Among the many other phenomena that are presented to us is the BRICS project and its policies, stated recently with special emphasis by the governments of the countries that make it up. This could create a lot of confusion among our peoples, leading them to believe that China and Russia, and the government of Brazil, are led by leftist positions, when in fact the first two are imperialists, and the third is a bourgeois government allied to imperialism.

We are confronted with the challenge of denouncing the imperialist character, the specific interests and policies of this project, which finds an important ally in the government that call themselves left-wing, by which they deceive the popular masses and therefore discredit the real leftist positions.

Our propaganda has to promote our revolutionary and socialist ideal as the real solution to the problems of our countries, the working class and peoples and to highlight the anti-national and anti-popular character of U.S. imperialism, the European Union and BRICS.

In the presentations and discussions the elements of the policies were emphasized that in one way or another, but with the same content and purpose, are being applied in Latin America, all of which seek to contribute to a phase of expansion of capital. They are:

1. The concessions to the multinationals for the exploration and exploitation of resources, mining, oil and gas, among other things, as part of the effort of finance capital and the multinationals to find new investments, seeking to recover the average rate of profit, as well as to ensure control of sources of raw materials.

This policy of conceding territory for mining exploration and operation hides the terrible affects that they would cause and, in fact, are causing to the environment, the fresh water and the communities and populations that are located there.

2. The promotion of genetically modified crops that in agri-businesses seek a source to expand the profitability of capital and that use the false discourse of fighting hunger. This affects the productive culture of our people that is a fundamental part of their sovereignty, while it harms human health.

3. The promotion of so-called policies for economic growth for the governments in office; this is not for development, but is based on low wages, reduction in the achievements and rights of the workers and popular sectors in general and the destruction of natural resources. The so-called competitiveness on the international level of these growth policies is based on these components; therefore, they stimulate the growth of GDP but, at the same time, they maintain and increase the levels of poverty of the popular majority.

4. Adoption of laws, decrees, regulations and contracts, which under the euphemism of the “rule of law” and “governability,” ensures the possibility of making those concessions; they cover up the investments of the multinationals and capital in general.

5. Neo-developmental policies, which give the State the power to make investments in areas that are not in conflict with private capital and instead pave the way for its circulation; while, in general, they are expenses that have a high component of “public charity” to mitigate the effects of privatization of public works and to disguise the poverty, but essentially they do nothing more than maintain an electoral following.

6. Policies of internal and external debt, almost always by issuing government bonds, which finance capital and businesses buy up, aware of the fact that the countries have natural reserves that serve as guarantors, thereby affecting national sovereignty. Besides this they place more taxes on the peoples and cut social investments in the public budgets that should benefit the people through education, health care and social security, among other things. In general it can be stated that all our countries face big fiscal deficits that cause multiple repercussions.

The implementation of these policies has led to the response of our peoples. In the majority of the countries important popular struggles have developed demanding the cessation of the policies of handing over natural resources to the multinationals, as well as for the achievement of better wages and democratic rights for the majority.

Although those struggles still do not mean that there is an upsurge of the popular movement, they do show a trend that is growing. Something that is very important and that our parties should bear in mind is the fact that various social sectors take part in these, being affected in one way or another by these policies. By their diverse composition, these movements express forms, even though in the beginning stages, of popular fronts that our parties should encourage and propose to lead.

It is a reality that these policies make up expand the social bases for the opposition to the governments and political regimes and institutions that protect and support them. This is the importance of political line and tactics.

In our discussions we have kept in mind that our parties and organizations, grouped in the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, have been taking up and promoting the need to develop popular front policies that in each country will have a name and composition that the specific realities call for. We concluded that this approach is correct and calls for more work on our part.

This is a challenge to the revolutionaries: to build a powerful broad front of the masses, that strikes the official policy and interests of finance capital and the multinationals, and in this struggle it is proposed as an alternative of power.

This challenge leads us to other challenges without whose solution it is difficult, almost impossible, for us Marxist-Leninist communists to fulfill our role of fighting revolutionary vanguard of the working class and of our peoples; that is, the need to increase our ranks, to become communist parties with deep roots among the masses, capable of leading the political processes taking place up to the seizure of power. If we are not big, strong and influential and, above all, if we do not place our sights on the conquest of power, the social democratic or overtly right-wing currents will take advantage of the circumstances and gain the leadership of the peoples and of power.

Therefore we must always keep in mind the popular masses; know what their aspirations and level of consciousness are; be one with them in thought a